Republican politician Morris Jackson “Mo” Brooks Jr. (1954- ) represented Alabama‘s Fifth Congressional District in the U.S. Congress for five terms, from 2011 to 2023. A lawyer by profession, he is a conservative who supports increasing defense spending, prohibiting illegal immigration, and lowering taxes. Brooks also has been a strong advocate for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and its Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville and the reestablished U.S. Space Command within the Department of Defense at Redstone Arsenal.
Brooks was born on April 29, 1954, to Morris Jackson “Jack” and Betty Brooks in Charleston, South Carolina; he had a brother and a sister. The family moved to Huntsville, Madison County, in 1963. His father was a veteran of World War II and had worked for the Redstone Arsenal Meteorology Center. His mother taught government and economics courses at Lee High School. Brooks attended Virgil I. Grissom High School, where he excelled in baseball and speech and debate. After graduating in 1972, he attended Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, where he double-majored in political science and economics, graduating in three years in 1975. The following year, Brooks married Martha Jenkins of Toledo, Ohio, whom he met while at Duke University; the couple has four children.
Brooks graduated from the University of Alabama School of Law School in Tuscaloosa, Tuscaloosa County, in 1978. He then became a prosecutor in the Tuscaloosa District Attorney’s office and started a private practice. In 1980, Brooks returned to Huntsville to clerk for Circuit Court judge John David Snodgrass. He entered politics in 1982 and was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives as a Republican; he was continuously reelected and served until 1991. The former prosecutor returned to the courtroom when he was appointed district attorney for Madison County in 1991 but lost a re-election bid the following year. Brooks also served as the special assistant attorney general for former U.S. senator and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions from 1995-1996 when Sessions was the state attorney general. He retained the position for Sessions’ successor, Bill Pryor, until 2002. Brooks served on the Madison County Commission from 1996-2011 while also maintaining a private practice and acting as county clerk. He made an unsuccessful bid for lieutenant governor of Alabama in 2006, finishing third in the Republican primary behind Luther Strange and George Wallace Jr. (Democrat Jim Folsom Jr. won the seat.)
In 2010, Brooks won the race for Alabama’s Fifth Congressional District, which encompasses the northern counties of the state along the Tennessee border, including Lauderdale, Limestone, Madison, Morgan, and most of Jackson counties, as well as the cities of Huntsville, Athens, Florence, Scottsboro, and Hartselle. Brooks was the first Republican to win the seat since Populist Albert Taylor Goodwyn lost in 1896. Brooks defeated incumbent physician Parker Griffith Jr. in the Republican primary and won with 51 percent to 33 percent of the vote. (Griffith had been elected as a Democrat in 2008, but switched parties in December 2009.) In the general election, Brooks defeated Democrat Steve Raby, the president of Huntsville Direct Communications, 58 percent to 42 percent. He handily defeated Griffith again in the 2012 Republican primary and bested Democratic, Republican, and Independent challengers in subsequent races.
During his tenure, Brooks was heavily involved in defense-related issues and NASA, serving on the Armed Services Committee, the Foreign Affairs Committee, and the Science, Space and Technology Committee. He served as vice chair of the Subcommittee on Space in the 114th Congress and retained the position in the 115th. In the 116th Congress, he joined the Armed Services Committee. Brooks was considered a strong proponent of space exploration. Over the years, he spoke out against cuts to NASA funding and opposed relying on Russia for transport to the International Space Station. He also decried the end of the Space Shuttle and Constellation space exploration programs, though their demise preceded his election to Congress. Brooks was a member of numerous caucuses and formed the Army Aviation Caucus on Capitol Hill to ensure that the views of the constituency are adequately represented. On national security issues, Brooks opposed sharing missile technology with the Russians and tried to stop the sequestration, a cap on spending that would have limited funding for the military. Brooks had called for U.S. forces to leave Afghanistan and refrain from involvement in Libya’s civil war, as well as more international involvement from Europe and Asia to stabilize the Persian Gulf Region, and he supported cutting foreign aid.
Domestically, Brooks was outspoken in his opposition to illegal immigration and supported deporting illegal immigrants and their children. He claimed that these individuals drive up health care and education costs while taking jobs from U.S. citizens and forcing down wages. In 2015, Brooks introduced an amendment approved by the House that would have prevented children of illegal immigrants from serving in the U.S. military. On the issue of healthcare reform, which had been a major topic during the administration of Pres. Barack Obama, Brooks voted numerous times to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as Obamacare) and voted to repeal some of its provisions as well. As a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, early in the 115th Congress Brooks opposed the Republican American Health Care Act promoted by Pres. Donald Trump as a replacement for the ACA, citing increased costs. He proposed changes that would instead offer states more flexibility. Brooks generally supported Pres. Trump’s agenda, such as tax reform in 2017, and the financial stimulus packages to mitigate the economic damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic. A steadfast religious conservative, he opposed abortion rights and on fiscal issues favored of lowering the U.S. budget deficit, claiming that the government could become insolvent unless there is immediate action. Brooks also favored repealing federal income and payroll taxes in favor of a national sales tax.
On January 6, 2021, Brooks was among the speakers who participated in the Save America rally organized as part of Pres. Trump’s efforts to overturn the certified results of the November 2020 presidential election. Crowds in attendance at the rally later invaded the U.S. Capitol while members of Congress were finalizing the vote, forcing them to seek shelter and delaying the vote. Early the next morning, Brooks voted against certifying the presidential election of Democrat Joe Biden on the false claims of voter fraud.
Brooks did not run for reelection in 2022, opting for a Senate race to replace the retiring Richard Shelby, who did not seek reelection after his sixth term. The Fifth District seat was won by Dale Strong, a native of Monrovia, Madison County, and chairman of the Madison County Commission. Although Brooks was considered a leader of the effort to keep Trump in office, the two fell out after Brooks distanced himself from Trump, who then withdrew his support for Brooks’s Senate campaign. Brooks lost badly in the primary to former Shelby chief of staff Katie Britt, of Enterprise, Coffee County, who won the general election.