A Tribute to Cameron Brooks

By Ray Hill

The passing of my dear, dear friend Cameron Brooks hit me like a runaway freight train on September 1.  I had believed Cameron would receive treatment and be well again and live a long life.  Now I’m haunted by Cameron having told me on more than one occasion he never believed he would live a long life.  I am devastated that he was right.  It has never been hard for me to say “hello” to anyone, but it is nigh unto impossible for me to say “goodbye” to someone I have cared about.  It doesn’t seem real such a gentle and kind spirit as Cameron’s has left this earth.

I first met Cameron Brooks at a reception honoring the service of Nick Pavlis, who was leaving the Knoxville City Council at the time.  For almost every day since, Cameron and I talked on the telephone, sometimes more than once.  Cameron and I became very good friends.  We shared a love for dogs, politics, and history.

Even a passing acquaintance with Cameron revealed his absolute love for dogs.  Cameron and his husband Wes had three rescue dogs: Sam, Annabelle and Lyndon.  Sam was very special to Cameron and had been found wandering the streets in upper East Tennessee before being adopted by Cameron and Wes.  Annabelle was something else entirely; lively, utterly impervious to scolding, absolutely determined to have her way, and obsessed with food, Cameron liked to sing “Bad Girls” for her.  Lyndon was a hound adopted from Young – Williams who soon became known as “Lyndon Nixon” and someday I will explain that.  Cameron was a member of the Board of Directors of Young – Williams, a role for which he was tailor-made and cherished.

When my dear little Scottish terrier, Mackie, was dying of bladder cancer, it was Cameron Brooks who located a Jack Russell terrier; I had started to think perhaps a young dog might extend Mackie’s life, which it did.  Cameron took it upon himself to find me that dog, which explains his entire nature as a human being.  Cameron was always thinking of others.

I had intended to name a puppy “Billy” and I was astonished when I noticed the Jack Russell was named. . .”Billy.”  Cameron came by to visit with Billy and told me once Billy was a “bougie” dog because he was perfect in every way.  I couldn’t argue that point at all.  It will be impossible for me to look at Billy without thinking of Cameron.

As with everything about Cameron, his love of dogs was not passive.  Every year Cameron Brooks was always doing something to help dogs; from raising money to save dogs from being killed to sponsoring pet portrait day where his friends could come and get their picture taken with their dogs free of charge.  Cameron didn’t do it for show, but because his heart really was that big.  There was no pretense about Cameron, and he was not a naturally outgoing person, but he was a person who liked most people and he felt things very deeply.

Cameron Brooks was a person who gave generously, selflessly, not only of his time and money, but of himself.  Cameron was devoted to his family and friends, bound to them by ties of love, affection, and an intense and fierce loyalty.

Politically, Cameron Brooks was a Democrat, but he was the kind of Democrat even the most hidebound Republican could recognize, understand, and even appreciate.  Cameron firmly believed in God Almighty, fiscal responsibility, and decency.  Cameron also believed in working people and had a very real concern for working families.  Our politics were not the same; for instance, Cameron was strongly against the ballot amendment having to do with right-to-work, while I was just as strongly for it.  Cameron never made any political disagreement unpleasant, and he was independent in his thinking. When we didn’t agree about an issue, it never affected the warmth of our friendship.

At the bottom of his politics was his strong belief in bettering the lives of working people.  Cameron had not grown-up poor; quite the contrary, he readily acknowledged his family had provided for him and his education.  Yet Cameron was acutely aware of those who were not so lucky or fortunate.  If he disliked anything, it was elitists and their kind.  Nor did he like the duplicity of some of those in politics.

The passing of Cameron Brooks robs Knoxville of someone who was seeking public office not to be somebody, but rather to do something for the people.  Quiet, mild-mannered, and thoughtful  yet strong-willed, nobody would have been able to move Cameron from what he believed to be in the best interest of the people of Knoxville.  Cameron had what is so desperately needed in the polarized politics today and all too often absent in so many candidates: a true public servant’s heart.  Cameron had the ability to bring diverse and very different people together.  Cameron had a knack for finding those areas where people could agree.

Politically speaking, Cameron Brooks accomplished something almost nobody else could do: his deep friendships with people crossed party lines.  Truly, Cameron Brooks was one person who could have thrived in the nonpartisan atmosphere of city elections.

Cameron was not much concerned about material things for himself, but he did good things for others.  There is no doubt in my mind that had he lived, Cameron Brooks would have been elected to an at-large seat on the Knoxville City Council.

Cameron and I both showed up at a wedding a few years back and someone took a picture of us together.  Cameron was amused that I had attended the wedding in a white suit, and he came by my office and brought me a gift.  It was a beautifully framed photo of that same picture taken at the wedding.  As my office is sometimes referred to as “The Museum,” Cameron said there were photos of me and friends everywhere and he wanted to be represented there.  As long as I live, that photo of us will remain within my eyesight.

In fact, the photo which accompanies my column in this newspaper of me and my beloved little Scottie Mackie was taken by my friend Cameron.  I didn’t know why Cameron had wanted to take it, but he was insistent and later that year, he presented me with an oversized and framed portrait for Christmas.  That gift meant the world to me then and still does now, especially with Mackie gone.

I am fortunate in having so many reminders of Cameron and our friendship, which I will keep for the remainder of my own life.  I cling to the comfort of knowing one day I will see Cameron again.

It is a tragedy for Cameron Brooks to have departed his life at such a young age.  His passing was sudden and is deeply painful to his many friends.  Cameron Brooks left his mark on his adopted city and in the hearts of his family and friends. For those who knew Cameron, that mark will be indelible and forever.



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