Thomas described how Brooks, then a dean of Holy Cross, won an "amnesty" for black students in December 1969 after they had quit the college en masse. Five black students had been singled out and expelled for taking part in a larger protest related to the Vietnam War. The other blacks decided to quit in solidarity with those who had been expelled. Thomas said his college career might have ended there had the priest not intervened.
"The black kids were being treated unfairly. I said: 'Look, if we're not going to be treated fairly here, let's leave,' " Thomas said. "Thank God for Ted [Wells] … and Father [Raymond] Swords and Father Brooks. They worked it…. What if he [Brooks] had just said: 'Let them go.' God only knows where I would be."