Time and time again, Dr. Michael Brooks walks into a patient room in Fort Worth and hears a common question: “Are you related to the Brookses on Evans?”
He chuckles, answers yes on both accounts. For decades, Brooks’ father, uncle and cousin were physicians who owned the Brooks Family Practice Clinic at 2200 Evans Ave.
Brooks himself worked there during his summers before he, too, went to medical school, filing papers and checking in patients who formed a community in the waiting room. But that was in the 1970s, and in the years since his cousin, Dr. Clarence Brooks, died in 2013, the clinic fell out of use and changed hands.
The building’s current owner, Fort Worth investor and Brooks family friend Jim Austin, put the property for sale via auction May 20. Austin, Brooks and the leadership of BRAVE/R Together, a nonprofit working to extend life expectancy in 76104, hope the latter can secure the funds to purchase the building and restore it to the kind of clinic Dr. Marion “Jack” Brooks, Brooks’ uncle, originally envisioned.
“It wasn’t just a medical facility,” Brooks said. “It was literally a micro community … a central gathering place.”
They worry someone else will get there first, said Shawn Lassiter, BRAVE/R Together’s founder and executive director, and turn the space into something that wouldn’t benefit the community.
Dr. Jack and Dr. Donald Brooks, Brooks’ father, grew up in a segregated Fort Worth in the 1920s. The brothers lived among a thriving community in 76104, Brooks said, before attending Prairie View A&M University and Howard University College of Medicine.
Armed with their medical licenses, the brothers returned to Fort Worth. Dr. Jack, a family medicine physician, launched his clinic in 1952. Dr. Donald, the first Black board-certified surgeon in Texas, joined him shortly after.
“There was a strong bond within the community,” Brooks said. “And that (bond) is the origin of the whole concept of the Brooks Clinic.”
The physicians served Black patients across North Texas for decades. When Dr. Clarence Brooks, Dr. Jack’s son and fellow family medicine physician, died in 2013, the family couldn’t find another primary care physician to take the helm, Brooks said. For years, the building sat empty. In 2020, it was foreclosed.
In early 2022, Austin passed by the clinic and noticed the building was yet again for sale. A North Carolina native, he’d been recruited to work as a salesman in Fort Worth nearly 50 years ago.
When he came to town, he said, he knew exactly two people from his studies at Howard University: Dr. Clarence Brooks and his wife.
Not long after, Austin became a surrogate family member, eating dinner with the Brooks family once or twice a week for years. He went to the Brooks Clinic for medical care, and when he had a family of his own, he took them, too.
“I’ve always been awed by the legacy of the Brooks family,” Austin said. He saw the clinic as an icon, part of a family whose focus for decades was serving the community. In spring 2022, he, along with four other investors, bought the property.
By that point, change was afoot in 76104. A 2019 study from UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas concluded that the zip code had the shortest life expectancy in Texas: 66.7 years.
In response, BRAVE/R Together and United Way of Tarrant County partnered to address the issue, recruiting community “ambassadors” — people who lived, worked, grew up, or owned a business in 76104 — to help seek solutions.
Lassiter, with BRAVE/R Together, remembers hearing about the Brooks Clinic at a community roundtable in 2021. Attendees reminisced about the clinic’s centrality in their lives, she said. Some hadn’t seen a doctor since it closed, they told her.
Brooks and other ambassadors for BRAVE/R Together began brainstorming how to reestablish a health care home within 76104.
Around the same time, in late 2022, Lassiter discovered Austin owned the Brooks Clinic building, and he was looking for a buyer. Since then, she and her colleagues at BRAVE/R Together have worked to amass funds to purchase the clinic.
“We’re building all these partnerships and having these conversations,” she said. “But you know, the way the funding world works is pretty slow.”
Who’s collaborating with BRAVE/R Together on the Brooks Clinic project?
So far, the list includes HKS Architects, the Burnett School of Medicine at TCU, the University of Texas at Arlington, JPS Health Network and UT Southwestern Medical Center.
The original asking price was $650,000, Austin said. The property is appraised at $400,000, according to the Tarrant Appraisal District, but since purchasing the building, they’ve remodeled.
“It has a new roof, new heating and air, new floors, new paint,” Austin said.
They had been trying to sell it almost as soon as they bought it. After months without success, his fellow investors suggested an auction. “They said, ‘Look, we’ve got to stop this bleeding,’” he said.
Austin called Lassiter with the news.
In the months since the ambassadors at BRAVE/R Together began planning to purchase the clinic, they’ve envisioned a transformed health care center that both preserves and expands the original Brooks Clinic building.
Dr. Danika Franks, a physician and founder of Community Flourish, has helped steer designs for the clinic’s built environment.
The new space would center three concepts: Food as medicine, movement as medicine and community as medicine. Franks envisions an onsite garden and teaching kitchen. Function follows form, she said, and BRAVE/R Together’s ultimate goal is to create a space that promotes preventive health care.
“These ideas are not only steeped in what I believe or what the current trends are in health care, but they are deeply rooted in what the community has asked for,” she said.
She’s confident BRAVE/R Together will be able to secure the funding needed to purchase the clinic.
“As Fort Worthians,” she said, “(When) something needs to happen, and it’s worthwhile, and it’s valid, and it’s needed, we take care of it.”
Want to support BRAVE/R Together’s mission to purchase the clinic?
Disclaimer: Whitnee Boyd, the director of strategic initiatives for BRAVE/R Together, is a member of the Fort Worth Report’s reader advisory council.
Alexis Allison is the health reporter at the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter.
Her position is supported by a grant from Texas Health Resources. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.