The owner of Jackson-Brooks Funeral Home died this week, and he'll be remembered by many for his wisdom, leadership and kindness to many local families.

Robert A. Brooks Jr., 80, who owned the family business since 1968, passed away on Thursday.

Jackson-Brooks Funeral Home, located in Aiken, first opened in 1912, and Brooks is said to have been a wonderful businessman who cared immensely about those he served.

Jackson-Brooks Funeral Director Geneva Lewis started working with Brooks in 1973, and she said he strived to assist any family struggling with the loss of a loved one, no matter their financial situation.

“He was very liked among the families in the community,” Lewis said. “He was my mentor. He was like a dad to me, and I felt like part of the family.”

Brooks graduated from Fisk University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in biology. He also attended Columbia University, Howard University Dental School and graduated from the American Academy McAllister Insitute of Funeral Service in New York as a mortician in 1966.

Ella Ruth Curry-Simpkins grew up with Brooks, who was an Augusta native, and remembers him pulling her around the neighborhood in a small, red wagon.

She later helped Brooks at the funeral home, and said he was a lifelong friend whom she will dearly miss.

S.C. Rep. Bill Clyburn said he is saddened by the death of Brooks, who he said influenced him to get into politics. At a time when not many minorities were running for office, Brooks pushed Clyburn, who was later elected to Aiken City Council in 1973.

Clyburn said Brooks was a community activist, and he was involved in the transition of racial integration in the 1960s.

Brooks was involved in the Neighborhood Youth Corps at the Aiken-Edgefield Community Action Commission, the local NAACP of which he was a past president, the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and the Royal Aikenites. Brooks also was involved with the Democratic Party.

Clyburn said Brooks was very intelligent and was someone who many went to for advice.

“He affected the lives of so many. He offered good guidance, and he was followed by many,” Clyburn said. “I don't know how to judge his success, but I know his significance will always be a part of Aiken.”

Brooks is survived by his wife Barbara Alicia Brooks and their three daughters.

Funeral services will be held Monday at 1 p.m. at St. Thaddeus Episcopal Church at 125 Pendleton St. S.W.

Amy Banton is the County reporter with the Aiken Standard and has been with the publication since May 2010.