Known to many as the Superintendent of the Oregon State Hospital in Salem, who invited the makers of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" to use the hospital campus for the film, and who briefly appeared as the psychiatrist doing the entrance interview with Jack Nicholson's character, Dean Brooks was also responsible for bringing therapeutic community pioneer Maxwell Jones to Oregon in 1960.
In an interview in 1991, the late David Clark described Dean Brooks as a "lovely man", and explained that "it was Dean that got Max to Salem and Max really shook up the hospital over the three years he was there. And it was great fun going up there and watching him teasing and perplexing and challenging all the people there. But it ended up with the Governor firing him!" (PETT Archive and Study Centre, (T)CF034)
In 2005 David Clark wrote: "When I went lecturing to the USA in 1961 I found many people talking of his [Maxwell Jones'] visit to hospitals and units. When I was invited to California for a post-graduate year in 1962/3 I found that Max was working in Oregon at the Salem State Hospital. I managed to make several trips, staying with him and his wife Kirsten, and getting to know him and the Salem hospital and its pioneering Superintendent Dean Brooks very well. Max was promoting change and controversy in the hospital and the small town of Salem with vigorous glee and, as ever, arousing devotion and opposition around himself." (archive.pettrust.org.uk/pubs-dhclark-maxjones.htm).
Dennie Briggs goes into this episode in Max's life in more detail in a 1991 interview (archive.pettrust.org.uk/cf018pdf.pdf), and in his online book "In Prison", in which Dennie describes his own pioneering work in therapeutic community in the prison system of California, gives a lovely picture of the man:
There was the time when Maxwell Jones’s superintendent (Dean Brooks, MD) at Oregon State Hospital, for example, came to see the project. I didn’t know just when he would arrive but it was on a day that I normally spent in the laundry. I’d left word at the gate to notify me when he arrived. Somehow there was a slip-up and as he was seen as an important visitor, the guard sent him directly to the Superintendent’s office. Obie had graciously received him and oriented him to the institution. Then he had his secretary run me down by phone and asked that I come and get him. I was in the middle of what I thought was an important interchange with some of our men and the non-project men at the time, and so sent back a message that I would be there as soon as I could.
Before I could conclude the affair, Obie arrived at the laundry with Dr. Brooks and turned him over to me. Max had told me about him, his interest in therapeutic communities, and the support he had given him. (I’d actually met him previously on a trip to visit Max in Oregon.)
I thought there was no better way for him to experience what went on than to use the occasion to involve him. After Obie had left and the proper greetings were exchanged, I asked some of the inmates to show him what we were doing. Instead of the usual tour and canned indoctrinations visitors get at institutions, the residents at the folding table, where there’d just been a heated dispute, said they could use an extra pair of hands. Could he help them out? One took his coat and soon Max’s superintendent had his sleeves rolled up, folding inmates’ clothing, and joining the on-going discussion.
It was an excellent indoctrination, for an hour later when Dean Brooks was sitting in the community meeting, he was already a part of it. As I recall, we were in the middle of a crisis and Dr. Books became so involved he returned for an extra day to participate in its understanding and resolution."
A warm and remarkable part of therapeutic community history and heritage, Dean Brooks has died at the age of 96. An article about Dr. Brooks in Oregon's Statesman Journal newspaper can be found here: