Bishop Hamel Hartford Brookins' death draws leading clergy to Los Angeles

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People who knew and admired Hamel Hartford Brookins, a veteran bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, are preparing to bid a final farewell Friday morning. The clergyman and political activist died last week at his home in Los Angeles.

As the Rev. Jesse Jackson left the public viewing on Thursday at Allen House Chapel in L.A., he recalled how Bishop Brookins helped generate support for Jackson's first presidential campaign.

“I told him I had no resources," Jackson recalled. "Well, the bishop asked over 300 ministers in East St. Louis, Missouri. That kicked off the ’84 campaign. Laid the groundwork for the ’88 campaign, which laid the groundwork for Barack Obama.”

Across from the church, mourners carried flowers as they entered a chapel where the bishop’s robed remains lay in an open mahogany casket. His left hand was draped across a Bible.

Brookins, a civil rights activist with international reach, was 86 years old when he died. Before his 30 years as a bishop in his denomination, he was pastor of First AME Church (L.A.'s oldest black congregation) for more than a decade. He began construction on its multimillion-dollar sanctuary.

The bishop’s wife, the Rev. Rosalynn Kyle Brookins, recalled his steadfast faith as he struggled with his health in recent years.

“Even in the nursing facility, he would push his wheelchair and go from room to room and preach the gospel," she said. "So, if there’s anything I would like to say, I would like to say, in the words of my husband, ‘Let the church say, amen.’”

Bishop Brookins helped to calm tensions in L.A. after the Watts riots in 1965. In the eight years that followed, he worked to assemble the coalition that elected Tom Bradley, the first (and, so far, only) black mayor of the city.

Gov. Jerry Brown plans to speak at the funeral for Bishop Brookins at First AME Church.

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