This tenured faculty member of Rutgers University's drama department enjoyed a varied performing career singing jazz, acting in Shakespeare and appearing in occasional regional and off-Broadway ventures when wide popular success on TV in the 1980s arrived as he approached middle age. With his booming voice, piercing gaze and forthright manner, Brooks made a galvanizing sidekick of sorts for Robert Urich as the bald-pated, rather mysterious Hawk on the popular ABC detective drama, "Spenser: For Hire" (1985-88). When that show went off the air Brooks continued for a season with his own spinoff series, "A Man Called Hawk" (1989).
Brooks's stage career augmented his appearances on the small screen. His proud, imposing presence made him an excellent choice to play controversial actor-singer Paul Robeson in several biographical dramas, as well as a role Robeson himself was famous for, Othello. When he agreed to play Commander Benjamin Sisko on the third "Star Trek" series, "Deep Space Nine", Brooks knew that he would be subject to careful scrutiny from scores of Trekkers who, for varying reasons, had idolized William Shatner and Patrick Stewart as other, earlier Trek commanders. Brooks, though, deftly brought to bear his own brand of quiet authority to Sisko, in charge of a remote outer space outpost.