Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson Dead at 80

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson died at 5:30 a.m. today at his Independence Township home surrounded by family and friends after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 80 years old.

Patterson speaks to a crowd, one arm reached toward the audience, U.S. Flag in the background, Patterson is seated

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson

“It is with deep sadness that I report the passing of our friend and county executive, L. Brooks Patterson,” Chief Deputy County Executive Gerald D. Poisson said. “He was a once-in-a-generation leader whose vision inspired all of us to be part of the best county government in America.”

Poisson will take the oath of office to serve as county executive until either the Oakland County Board of Commissioners appoints a successor within 30 days or a special election is held as provided by law (see Public Act 139 of 1973, Section 45.559a).

Mary Warner, Patterson’s daughter, released the following statement:

“Our dad was a courageous fighter all his life and he fought right up until the end,” Warner said. “Our family is grieving over the unimaginable loss of our father, grandfather, hero, and friend. Many will remember him for his impact on Michigan and generosity toward Oakland County. We’ll remember him for his love and generosity toward his family and friends.”

L. Brooks Patterson and his 9-year-old granddaughter Ella at the State of the County Afterglow at the Auburn Hills Marriott Pontiac - photo by Michael Dwyer

L. Brooks Patterson and his 9-year-old granddaughter Ella at the 2016 State of the County Afterglow at the Auburn Hills Marriott Pontiac – photo by Michael Dwyer

Patterson was over halfway through an unprecedented seventh term of distinguished service as Oakland County executive. Since taking office on Jan. 1, 1993, he transformed Oakland County with his 21st Century vision and no-nonsense leadership. His mission was to make Oakland County one of the best places to live, work, play and raise a family. In addition, he served with distinction as Oakland County prosecutor from Jan. 1, 1973 – Dec. 31, 1988.

Under Patterson’s 26-plus years of leadership as county executive, Oakland County reached full employment because of his successful job growth and retention strategies in the knowledge-based economy which included the Emerging Sectors business development program. The county achieved its coveted AAA bond rating in 1998 and has retained it until the present day thanks to Patterson’s “thoughtful management versus crisis management” approach to governing along with his three-year budget with a five-year outlook. Oakland County has been ranked among the most digitally advanced counties in America by the Center for Digital Government for the past 13 years because Patterson embraced technology to improve customer service, work more efficiently, and collaborate with other governments in the cloud. See the accompanying document for a complete list of Patterson’s accomplishments.

“Brooks has an incredible list of accomplishments. But for those of us who knew him well, he’ll be remembered for his unshakeable loyalty, warmth and kindness, and generous heart,” Poisson said.

Patterson was born in Loogootee, Ind. on Jan. 4, 1939, to Margie and Hubert Patterson. He grew up in the Rosedale Park neighborhood on Detroit’s westside, attending St. Scholastica School and University of Detroit High School. After earning his undergraduate degree in English from the University of Detroit, he taught at Catholic Central High School in the city. Prior to earning his law degree from the University of Detroit, Patterson served in the U.S. Army from 1962-1964.

After law school, Patterson briefly entered private practice and then joined the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office as an assistant prosecutor where he quickly ascended to prosecuting major crimes. Tom Plunkett, the Oakland County prosecutor at the time, fired Patterson in 1971 because Patterson disagreed with his position favoring plea bargains. Patterson ran against Plunkett in 1972 and defeated him. The rest is history.

Patterson also was in private practice prior to his election as prosecutor and during the years in between stepping down as Oakland County prosecutor and his election as Oakland County executive.

Patterson is survived by his son Dr. Dayne (Heather) Rogers of Davisburg, daughters Mary (Gary) Warner of Clarkston and Shawn Sutherland of Waterford, daughter-in-law Jessie (Charlie) Damavoletes of Waterford, former wife Kathy (Bruce) Patterson of Clarkston, 11 grandchildren, and several nieces and nephews. His son Brooks “Brooksie” Stuart Patterson preceded him in death in a tragic snowmobile accident in 2007. Patterson was also predeceased by his twin brother Stephen, sister Harriett Hayden, and nephew Timothy Hayden, all three of whom died of cancer.

Visitation and funeral arrangements are pending. Memorial donations may be made to The Rainbow Connection, a Rochester-based organization Patterson founded to grant wishes to seriously ill children. To date, The Rainbow Connection has granted more than 3,500 wishes. The Rainbow Connection is located at 621 W. University, Rochester, Mich. 48307.

Following the news, Sheriff Michael Bouchard released the following statement:

“Today, is the end of an era in Oakland County. Brooks Patterson was a steadfast leader, who safeguarded Oakland County’s fiscal stability in good times and in bad. His policies and focus in leading this county into the 21st century will never be forgotten. With Brooks, we did not have to wonder what was on his mind – his quick wit and sometimes sharp tongue never left any doubt where he stood. Whether you agreed with him on an issue or not, you always knew his unwavering concern had the best interests of Oakland County – first and always. He devoted his whole adult life to Oakland County. I knew him as Oakland County Prosecutor while I was a patrol officer and as the executive while I have been the Sheriff. In both roles, I was appreciative of his dedication to public safety and investing in law enforcement advancements for our communities. His ability to make wise financial and policy decisions for the residents of Oakland County will have a lasting impact on all of us for years to come. He will be greatly missed. His family and loved ones are in my prayers.”

From Rochester Media Editor Michael Dwyer:

“Mr. Patterson always made sure the members of the media got what they needed – quotes, photos, etc. – at events and appearances. I appreciated his professionalism and courtesy to the media, which helped make our jobs easier.”

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Rochester Media publishes The Community Edge digital newsletter of recently posted articles from Rochester Media, a hyper-local news outlet covering all things in and around Rochester, Rochester Hills, and Oakland Township. Send us you press releases and news happenings to editor@rochestermedia.com.


  1. Floyd Lampinen says

    I moved from Rochester to the West Coast in 1970.I remember his name being in the news.I’m kind of surprised it’s the same person from almost 50 years ago.He was truly an asset for Oakland County.

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