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Robert H. Brooks

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Robert H. Brooks

Plaque of Hooters founder Robert H. Brooks at the Keiner Plaza Hooters in St. Louis, Missouri in 2010.

Robert Howard Brooks (February 6, 1937 – July 15, 2006) was founder of Hooters of America, Inc. restaurant chain that would eventually drive that company's rapid expansion in the mid–late 1990s.

Early life and career

Born in Loris, South Carolina (near the Myrtle Beach area), Brooks grew up on a tobacco farm. A 1960 dairy science graduate of Clemson University, Brooks spent time in the United States Army before founding Naturally Fresh Foods, a condiment and salad dressing manufacturer in the Atlanta area, in 1967.. He was raised as Methodist.[1]

Involvement with Hooters

In 1984, Brooks bought the expansion and franchise rights for Hooters from Clearwater, Florida) in the mid-1980s; to over 430 stores worldwide (including Taiwan, Venezuela, and Switzerland).

The company also included Hooters Air, an airline that ran from 2004 to 2006; the Hooters Pro Cup (auto racing); the Hooters Pro Tour (golf); the Hooters Casino Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, which opened in February 2006; and the Hooters MasterCard, which debuted in March 2006.

Brooks purchased the Hooters trademark from the company's founders in 2001. He turned over control of the company to his son, Coby, in 2003; and retired to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Brooks would still come up and visit the Atlanta headquarters on a weekly basis, though. Even after his retirement from Hooters, he was still affectionately known as the "World Wide Wing Commander" by company employees.

Awards

Brooks was named Georgia Entrepreneur of the Year in 1996.

Donations to South Carolina universities

Brooks was a major donor to universities in South Carolina. The Robert H. Brooks Performing Arts Center at Clemson, completed during the 1993-94 school year, was named in his honor following a large donation. He also donated $2 million to Coastal Carolina University (Conway, SC) in 2003 to create their first football stadium which the university named Brooks Stadium in his children's honor. He also created the Brooks Motorsports Institute (now Brooks Institute for Sports Science), the first of its kind in the US, at Clemson University about the study of the motorsports industry in the US.

Hooters and Hurricane Katrina

Brooks returned $200 to the Federal Emergency Management Agency in 2005 when it was found out that one of the refugees from Hurricane Katrina spent $200 on a bottle of expensive champagne at the restaurant, earning praise from government officials for his actions.

Death

Brooks died in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on July 15, 2006 of a heart attack.

He is survived by his wife Tami, and four children Coby, Boni, Jerrett Oates (stepson), and Christi Oates (stepdaughter). The eldest son from his first marriage, Mark, was killed in an April 1, 1993 plane crash with 1992 NASCAR Winston Cup (now NASCAR Sprint Cup) champion, Alan Kulwicki.

Tributes to Brooks

Following the announcement of Brooks' death on July 17, 2006, the main page of the Hooters website changed their sign to "Farewell World Wide Wing Commander" that ran from July 17, 2006 to September 10, 2006. A tribute was also done in the July 31, 2006 comic strip Prickly City.

The 2007 Hooters swimsuit calendar was also dedicated in his memory.[2]

Notes

  1. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/18/business/18brooks.html?_r=0
  2. ^ Hooters Calendar Official Site : Home page

References

  • Clemson University news on Robert H. Brooks
  • Cooper, Pat. "Robert H. Brooks". HOOTERS Magazine. February/ March 2008. p. 91.
  • Hooters news on Robert H. Brooks
  • MSNBC article on Robert H. Brooks
  • article on Brooks' death.New York Times
  • article on Brooks' faithNew York Times
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