Biography: Byron Brooks, brother of victim Spenser Brooks
Byron Jesse Brooks was born June 28, 1971, to Fitzgerald and Margery Brooks of Oxford. Fitzgerald, an investment banker, left much of the child-rearing to Margery. In his limited interactions with his two sons, Fitzgerald preached that hard work and sacrifice would earn them whatever they wanted in life.
While older brother Spenser took this philosophy to heart, Byron was the rebellious class clown even in kindergarten. But one of his father's regimens had a lasting effect: Once they could read, the boys had to recite by memory one of their namesake's poems each Christmas, and Byron delivered his with such flair that Margery enrolled him in children's theater at the first opportunity.
Even with this creative outlet, Byron continued to struggle academically, but masterminded grandiose pranks that won him notoriety. The last occurred after a civics class outing to Oxford City Hall, when Byron stole official letterhead and wrote to South African prime minister William De Klerk lodging an official protest from the mayor against apartheid.
The stunt earned him a criminal impersonation charge, which the family's lawyer pled down to a juvenile misdemeanor, and which caused Byron's high school sweetheart to break up with him. Byron was heartbroken, and upon graduation enlisted in the army. He served in the first Gulf War and earned a bronze star. With an honorable discharge under his belt, Byron took an around-the-world trip before returning home to attend Ole Miss. Byron graduated with a double major in business and Spanish and landed a junior marketing position at Federal Express. His responsibilities grew along with the company, where he continues to work as a senior marketing manager for Latin and South America.
Byron had relocated for work to Memphis, where he met Hannah Davies, a resident actress at the Playhouse on the Square. They married in 2001, and in 2003 adopted a girl from an orphanage in Guatemala. In 2005 they moved to a home on 2 acres in Grand Junction, a 40-minute commute from FedEx's Collierville complex. Hannah still took occasional roles with Memphis theater companies, worked as a part-time teacher's aide at the Grand Junction elementary school, and cultivated the family's half-acre garden, which provided enough produce for them and their neighbors year-round.
As adults, Byron and his brother Spenser kept in cordial contact, although Byron's family rarely came to Oxford for the holidays, preferring instead to travel abroad or visit with Hannah's relations. When Fitzgerald died in 2005, Byron returned to Oxford for the funeral and noticed that Margery was having difficulty standing; she had broken her arm in a fall the year before, and when he quizzed Spenser about it, Byron learned their mother had ALS -- Lou Gehrig's disease.
As she ailed, Margery repeatedly refused to move to a convalescent home and dismissed the home health aides her sons hired. Byron urged his brother to take Margery into his household, but Spenser declined, so Byron moved her to Grand Junction. Hannah cared for Margery herself with professional assistance, and the family outfitted a room with increasingly sophisticated medical equipment so Margery could remain with the family. Byron has recently engaged a hospice service for her.