Gravesite of Luther and Mattie Brooks

A police officer killed in the line of duty, and his spouse

Patrol Officer Luther Brooks was the victim of an accidental shooting. He was crawling through a tunnel at the foot of Eighth Street, searching for some tramps who had been stealing from freight cars. Brooks’ own gun slipped from its holster. When the gun hit the ground, it went off.

The bullet struck Brooks; the wound was a bad one. It was widely expected that Officer Brooks would die, and he did, just a few days later. But the story of his last illness is interesting.

Luther’s spouse Mattie Brooks showed up at the City Hospital where her husband had been taken for treatment. She found him in a public ward. She demanded that he be given a private room, and he was. Then she be demanded that he be seen by a Black doctor. The Cincinnati Commercial Tribune reported that Ms. Brooks “discharged the physicians in the case and told them that in the future, Brooks would be looked after by Dr. Vaughan,” a prominent Black physician of Walnut Hills.

This event, in 1901, marks the first time a Black doctor was allowed to treat a case in the Cincinnati City Hospital.

When Luther Brooks died, he left Mattie Brooks a widow at age 28. She outlived him by 60 years. She never remarried. She received a pension from the police department, and she began a career as a hair stylist.

Mattie Brooks got trained in the Poro system of hair and scalp treatments. (This system had been devised by Annie Malone, an African American woman in St. Louis.) Ms. Brooks opened a hair salon on Alms Place in Walnut Hills. In 1918, journalist Wendell Dabney referred to her as “Mrs. Mattie Brooks, famous hair dresser of this city.” She died in 1961 at the age of 88 and was buried in the same cemetery with her husband.


Chris Hanlin, “Gravesite of Luther and Mattie Brooks,” Cincinnati Sites and Stories, accessed February 21, 2024,