The only female African president of the UN General Assembly was born on August 24, 1928 in Virginia, Liberia. One of nine children of a Baptist minister, Brooks was raised by a widowed seamstress.
After a teenage marriage and divorce to Richard A. Henries (who later became Speaker of the Liberian House of Representatives), she decided to seek higher education. Brooks partially financed her studies by working as a dishwasher, laundress, a library assistant, and nurse’s aide. In 1949, she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in social science from Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina. Three years later, she got a Bachelor of Law degree and a Master of Science degree in political science from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
Brooks earned Doctor of Law degrees, from Shaw University and Howard University in 1962 and 1967 respectively. She also did graduate work in international law at the University College Law School of the University of London in 1952 and 1953, and obtained a Doctor of Civil Law degree from the University of Liberia in 1964. Brooks served as Counsellor-at-law to the Supreme Court of Liberia, Assistant Attorney-General of Liberia, and part-time Professor of Law at the University of Liberia.
In 1954 she became Liberia’s Ambassador to the United Nations, where much of her work involved the transformation of former colonial states into independent countries. In 1969, she was chosen as the President of the General Assembly and took office in 1970.
She also served as Assistant Secretary of State of Liberia and as a supreme court justice. Brooks was a member of the Eta Beta Omega international chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.
She died on September 9, 2007 in Houston, Texas. She received a state funeral in Liberia and was buried in her birthplace of Virginia.