BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - A portion of Interstate 59 is now named for a Jefferson County sheriff’s deputy who was hit by a drunken driver and killed while gathering evidence at a crime scene nearly 20 years ago.
The stretch of roadway between mile markers 135 and 136 has become the Deputy Sheriff Henry Lloyd Brooks Memorial Highway, authorities announced Thursday. “A life well lived is one that is remembered,” said Sheriff Mike Hale.
Brooks, a 41-year-old, 17-year veteran of the force, was killed Jan. 18, 1997. The crash happened about 2:52 a.m. while Brooks was gathering evidence from a car that had been involved in a robbery.
He was putting something inside, or getting something out of, his sheriff’s car when a vehicle traveling east struck Brooks and his car. The impact knocked Brooks more than 30 feet from his car, causing severe head injuries and cutting off his right leg below the knee.
LifeSaver helicopter and medical personnel responded to the crash, but Brooks was pronounced dead on the scene at 3:51 a.m.
Alfred James Edwards, then 36 and living in Trussville, was charged with murder but ultimately found guilty of manslaughter. Breath and blood tests performed on Edwards hours later showed his blood alcohol level was between 0.14 percent and .20 percent. The legal limit is 0.08.
Edwards was sentenced to 17 years in prison. He was paroled in December 2013.
Sheriff’s officials, along with State Rep. Allen Treadaway and Gardendale police Chief Mike Walker, have been working for more than a year to make the highway memorial happen.
“It’s a special day for Henry, a special day for his family and a special day for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office,” said Chief Deputy Randy Christian. “He was a character. In today’s world, they’d call him a hot mess. He’d make you laugh until you cried, and his uniform was always pressed. He looked like a million dollars.”
Walker was a Birmingham police sergeant at the time of Brooks’ death, and was in charge of the scene that morning. “It’s something that has deeply affected me very much since that day,” Walker said.
Walker said getting the highway dedicated has taken a lot of time and hard work, but said it is worth it to know that hundreds of thousands of people will see Brooks’ name as they travel in and through Birmingham.
“They’ll know the sacrifice he made,” Walker said.
Treadway said the resolution honoring Brooks notes his bravery, devotion to duty and love of his community. Also a Birmingham police captain, Treadwell is currently working on getting similar highway designations for seven Birmingham police officers killed in the line of duty during the past 25 years. He said once approved, there will be signs on every “artery” of Birmingham-area interstates paying tribute to the fallen officers.
“It’s just a small thing we can do to make sure we never forget,” he said.
Brooks’ family, including his widow Jan, attended Thursday’s ceremony.
“I think this is phenomenal,” she said. “There’s not a day that goes by that we don’t remember something funny he said or did.”
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