Brooks Jr.
Elton "Don" Brooks Jr.

Elton"Don" Brooks Jr. (1950 - )

Born in Douglas, Georgia on April 14, 1950 and graduated in 1972 from Northwood University in Michigan with a B.B.A.  He returned to Douglas to work in the family business with his father, Elton brooks, a WWII B17 Tail Gunner.  This led Don to develop an intense interest in WWII aviation history.  He has always said, "The more I learn about the great courage, sacrifice, and dedication of our veterans, the more I feel obligated to do all that I can to honor them and to help keep their memory alive."  Don earned his private pilot license in 1980 and currently holds single-engine, multi-engine, and instrument ratings, plus type ratings in the Douglas DC-3 and Boeing B-17, and has over 4,500 total flight hours.  In 1988, Don bought a C-47 (military DC-3), equipped it with skis and became part of the Greenland Expedition Society with Pat Epps.  They were in search of the "Lost Squadron", a flight of six P-38 fighters and two B-17 bombers that made a mass emergency landing on the Greenland Ice Cap in July 1942.  The crews were rescued, but the brand new planes were left behind to be covered in time by 260' of ice and snow.  Don was in charge of logistics for the three large expeditions in 1989, 1990, and 1992 when the P-38 "Glacier Girl" was recovered.  Don had hoped to rebuild one of the two B-17's, but learned upon reaching it in 1990 that the B-17's were crushed beyond repair.  Don immediately began to search Air Force crash records for another B-17; and found a good one that landed while low on fuel, on a frozen lake in Labrador.  The crew was rescued and the plane went through the ice in the spring of 1947.  A 14 year quest of locating, gaining rights to, and retrieving the bomber from the bottom of Dyke Lake ended with the B-17 being trucked to Douglas, GA.  Some of Don's other efforts towards helping to preserve our military aviation heritage include: In 1994, he refinished his C-47 in its wartime colors and flew it to Normandy for the 50th Anniversary of D-Day so 26 D-Day Veteran Paratroopers could jump again over Ste-Mere-Eglise in honor of their fallen comrades.  He started a Foundation dedicated to the preservation of the WWII Primary Flight Training base in Douglas.  The base provided primary flight training for 7,000 U.S.A.A.F. cadets who went on to fly every type of aircraft, in every theatre of operations during WWII.  The WWII Flight Training Museum now operates in one of the former barracks.  This base is now recognized as the most intact and complete of any Primary Flight Training Base from WWII and is listed on the "National Register of Historic Places".  He has served for 35 years on the Douglas Airport Commission and has helped it grow from a small 3,000' strip to one with a 6,000' runway, full parallel taxiway, ILS approach, new terminal, and it has helped to bring over 5,000 jobs to the area because of these improvements.  Historic military aircraft recovered and/or rebuilt by Don: a Curtiss P40E that came out of the dump in Cold Bay, Al, rebuilt and flown for two years as Robert Scott's "Old Exterminator"; a Stinson L-5 "air ambulance"; a Douglas C-47 "Sky Train"; a North American SNJ5-C advanced trainer; a Boeing PT-17 "Caded"; a Beechcraft T-34B "Mentor"; a Douglas A-20 "Havoc".  Additionally aircraft currently under rebuild include two Boeing B-17G "Flying Fortress" bombers.  He started the Liberty foundation in 2002 to purchase a B-17G that was under rebuild by Tom Reilly.  It began touring the country in 2004 to honor our veterans, preserve part of our aviation heritage, and educate current/future generations as to the high price of freedom.  The aircraft has made over 600 tour stops, allowed over 30,000 people to fly in a B-17, many of them WWII Veterans flying for free, and over 200,000 people have taken a tour through the B-17.  In 2008, the "Liberty Bell" flew from Georgia to Duxford, England to take part in the largest Warbird Airshow in Europe.  At every stop thousands of people came out to tour the plane and express how much they appreciated the many "young American flyers" who gave so much for their freedom; Don's planes have supported countless Military Airshows and Open Houses, dropped military and military reenactment parachute teams, participated in "Fly-bys" honoring or remembering our veterans, and he even organized six warbird airshows in the small town of Douglas that brought in up to 10,000 spectators, many of whom had never been close to an aircraft.

In recognition of his many outstanding accomplishments in recovering and restoring vintage military aircraft, promoting aviation, honoring our veterans, and influencing a generation of young Americans, Elton "Don" Brooks, Jr. was enshrined into the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame on April 29, 2017.