Hilliard Brooks

Photo of Hilliard Brooks. Courtesy of the Archive.
Photo of Hilliard Brooks. Courtesy of the Archive.

Location: Montgomery, Alabama

Age: 22

Year: 1950

Hilliard Brooks, 22, was a WWII veteran who was killed in 1950 by police officer M. E. Mills in Montgomery, Alabama.

On August 12, 1950, Brooks boarded a city bus and refused to re-enter in the rear of the vehicle after paying his fare at the front. Jim Crow seating segregation on buses, and in most public spaces, was enforced in Alabama at the time.

Brooks’ refusal angered the driver and he subsequently summoned officer Mills, who was patrolling nearby.

The driver accused Brooks of causing a disturbance and “using bad language in the presence of women,” according to the officer’s account. Brooks was also allegedly intoxicated.

Mills arrived on the scene and pushed Brooks to the ground, but as the veteran stood Mills fired the fatal shot.

Witnesses suggested that Brooks could have been easily subdued and that Mills’ reaction was unwarranted.

Two passersby were also injured by Mills’ gunfire.

Brooks was taken to hospital but later died from his stomach wounds.

A police board of investigation later asserted that Mills had acted in self-defense, a decision that was supported by Montgomery’s mayor. 

For more information, search CRRJ’s archive.

Read more about Brooks’ death on the Burnham-Nobles Digital Archive

About the Archive

The Burnham-Nobles Digital Archive houses case files and documents for more than 1,000 cases of racial homicides in the Jim Crow South. Co-founded by Melissa Nobles, professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Margaret Burnham, CRRJ director and professor of law at Northeastern, these uncovered stories highlight how violence affected lives, defined legal rights and shaped politics between 1930 and 1954.

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