HKS alumnus examines his family’s tragedy through film

3 min read

Few people could have survived the kind of brutal attack that killed the parents of Brooks Douglass, M.C./M.P.A. ’02, and severely injured both him and his sister. Douglass, whose Baptist missionary parents spent several years in Brazil before settling in Oklahoma, was only 16 when two men made their way into the family home in Oklahoma City and attacked all four of them, assaulting Douglass’ 12-year-old sister and, ultimately, killing his parents, and stealing 43 dollars.

Just 11 years later, Douglass became the youngest state senator in Oklahoma history, devoting his efforts to victims’ rights. The years between the attack and his election were not easy ones — the prolonged legal action against his parents’ killers, the financial and medical aftermath of the attacks, and the intense emotional impact on Douglass were significant challenges to overcome. He did, however, find the will to push forward, eventually earning an M.B.A. and J.D. from Oklahoma City University before turning his attention to the state Senate.

“Certainly the events surrounding the deaths of my parents help to catapult me into full-time public service,” said Douglass. “It seemed that while many people would pay lip-service to the idea of crime victim’s rights, rarely was anything really done about it. I felt like that was one place I could make a difference.”

Douglass served three terms in the Senate, during which time he had the opportunity to meet with one of the jailed men who killed his parents. That meeting, along with the story that led to it, became the inspiration for Douglass to write — and act in — a film about his life, released in late 2010.

“‘Heaven’s Rain’ is mostly about the power of forgiveness,” said Douglass. “I think it is something our world needs right now and probably always has. And while that is difficult to do, it is critical to our own individual and collective survival.

“An element of the story is also overcoming adversity. We have to make a choice every day to get up and live. I had to make the choice to get up off the floor after having been shot, and live. I reflect often on that decision. It didn’t mean I knew I would get out of the house and make it, but I certainly wouldn’t if I had just laid down and checked out. We all make choices every day about whether and how we will live.”