Belvidere Brooks '10 -- The Belvidere Brooks Memorial Medal

Eph Legends
Eph Legends

Belvidere Brooks Jr. graduated from Williams College in 1910.  The son of the general superintendant of the Western Union Telegraph Co., Brooks was born on December 15, 1888, in Galveston, Texas.  Having lived in Texas, Colorado, and New York, he and his family finally settled in New York.  Brooks played two years of football for Horace Mann Preparatory School before arriving in the Berkshires.

In the early 20th century football players played both offense and defense. Rarely were defensive linemen noted for their outstanding play as statistics such as tackles, sacks, and interceptions were not compiled game-by-game or even yearly. Offensive linemen were hardly ever accorded praise for their play as game reports most often told only of scoring drives or near misses on scoring drives.

Brooks was a varsity starter at Williams for three years, playing right tackle. His greatest achievements came in his senior year. In the fall of 1909 Brooks served as the Eph team captain and was one of just six returning seniors from the 1908 team that finished 3-3-2.

Belvidere Brooks '10

That year the mighty Ephs fought valiantly and earned the distinction of being the only Williams team to cross Harvard's goal line in two years (though they lost 8-6 to the heavily favored Crimson in Cambridge). This marked only the fourth time in 25 games that Williams had scored on Harvard. The Williams Record noted the close score was due "to strong line play by Williams," but the Ephs were victimized by Harvard's kicking game.

One of the most impressive victories of the 1909 season was the 3-0 shutout of Cornell in Ithaca, N.Y. That win put the Ephs' record at 2-2 and started a four-game win streak to close out the season.

With a 7-6 win over Little Three foe Wesleyan in Middletown, Conn., in the penultimate game of the season, Brooks and his teammates set the stage for a chance to capture the Little Three title outright with a win over Amherst in Williamstown in the season finale.

Brooks played just three minutes in the win over Wesleyan as he was forced to leave the field with a severely sprained ankle.

Seven days later Brooks had healed enough to allow him to lead the Ephmen to an impressive 17-0 win over Amherst on Weston Field. With the win over archrival Amherst the Ephs claimed the 1909 Little Three title and finished the year strong at 5-2.

According to The Williams Record, Brooks' efforts against Amherst were met with "cheers of, 'There's Captain Brooks a'comin' down the line,' and the conquest of Amherst must be considered the crowning achievement of one of the most successful teams to ever don the purple and gold."

The Eph win came in front of what was then the largest crowd (est. 5,000) to witness a football contest at Williams.

In their final four games of the 1909 season, the Ephs displayed stellar line play on both sides of the ball, allowing just 12 points total.

In addition to his accomplishments on the football field, Brookswas a member of theGargoyle Society and the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity.  He played water polo in his sophomore and junior years and also held the position of class treasurer. 

After graduation, Brooks returned to New York to start his career as a broker.  In April 1911, he was commissioned Second Lieutenant of Infantry. 

In January 1918, Brooks assumed command of Company D, 308th Infantry, 77th Division.  After training overseas with British forces at the front, his command saw action near Badonviller, France.  On the night of August 21, 1918, the young Captain Brooks paid the ultimate price.  Stationed with his unit at the entrance to a cave on a hillside above Villesavoye on the Vesle River, Brooks and five other soldiers died when a German shell burst at their feet as they were observing the effects of artillery fire on enemy positions.

Today, both the Brooks Medal for outstanding play during the football season and Brooks House, a student residence on Main Street, are named in honor of Belvidere Brooks Jr.

The Belvidere Brooks Medal was established with a fund created by alumni of the college and friends of Brooks. The Brooks Medal is presented at the close of the football season to the member of the football team whose play was of the greatest credit to the college. No person shall receive the medal more than once.

The oldest football team award at Williams, the Brooks Medal was first awarded in 1919.

The first recipient of the Brooks Medal was Ben Boynton '22, who served as a gunnery sergeant in the Marines in 1918. Returning to Williams, Boynton earned multiple All-American honors in football and captained both the baseball and basketball teams. Boynton later became a professional football player, business executive, and a top collegiate football referee, and he was the first Texan inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Sources

Williams College Archives and Special Collections: Belvidere Brooks (1888-1918) -- http://archives.williams.edu/williamshistory/biographies/brooks-belvidere.php

New York Times. 8 September 1918.

Williams College Class Book 1910.

Williams College in the World War. Williamstown, 1926.

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