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Thomas Brooks

Distinguished Alumnus May 2015

brooksThomas Brooks was born and raised in Lakeland, graduating from Lakeland High School in 1969. After spending one year at a private engineering school, he went to work for the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). He was later drafted into the Air Force, where he spent nearly four years before returning to Polk County and to his job.

As a child, Brooks enjoyed painting and drawing, realizing early on that he wanted to focus on art. He originally planned to be an engineer, but instead used his art talents as a draftsman. Upon return to the Florida Department of Transportation, Brooks attended Polk State on the GI Bill and took night classes to finish his degree. During this time, a friend introduced him to the wildlife and environmental art movement. Brooks found that he could freely express himself and his feelings about nature through his paintings of wildlife and the landscape. He received his Associate of Arts degree from Polk State College in 1982, and took with him a newfound love for capturing the beauty of nature.

Brooks continued at the FDOT, ultimately rising to an administrative position while also fielding opportunities to exhibit his artwork at shows throughout the Southeast. After 28 years with the state, Brooks decided to pursue his dream of focusing full time on his art. He resigned his position on September 11, 2001—a date that would signify change on so many levels.

Today, Thomas Brooks is an award-winning wildlife artist whose work has been recognized at both the state and national level. His work appears in many corporate, public, and private collections. Just a few of his many honors include Artist of the Year for the Florida National Wild Turkey Federation, Featured Artist for the Southeastern Wildlife Expo, and Featured Artist for the Plantation Wildlife Art Festival. Additionally, his art was selected for the 1995 and 1996 Florida Wild Turkey Conservation stamps, and in 2011 he was selected by the National Wild Turkey Federation to create its national stamp. The State of Arkansas also commissioned him to create its State Wildlife Conservation stamp prints.

In 2008, Florida Congressman Adam Putnam asked Brooks to paint the Christmas ornament representing the State of Florida for the White House. The ornament depicted the citrus and cattle history of Polk County and Central Florida. Brooks was invited to the White House for the unveiling, and his ornament remains in the permanent collection in Washington, DC.

Along with his many awards and accomplishments, Brooks also donates his time and art in support of charitable youth, wildlife preservation, conservation, and environmental organizations that operate both locally and internationally. He hopes to share his passion for art and wildlife on canvas so that current and future generations can enjoy and appreciate nature.