Albert Harold Rooks was born in Colton, Washington, on 29 December 1891. He entered the United States Naval Academy as a midshipman 13 July 1910, and was commissioned in the rank of ensign upon graduation on 6 June 1914. During the next seven years, among them the First World War years of 1917–18, he served in several ships, including West Virginia (ACR-5), St. Louis (CA-18). He commanded the submarines A-5 (SS-6), B-2 (SS-11), F-2 (SS-21), and H-4 (SS-147).
In 1921, Lieutenant Rooks joined the staff of the Twelfth Naval District, at San Francisco, California, remaining there until 1925, the year he was promoted to Lieutenant Commander. He next spent three years on board the battleship New Mexico (BB-40), followed by duty at the U.S. Naval Academy. In 1930, he helped commission the new cruiser Northampton (CA-26) and served in her until 1933, when he returned to the Naval Academy for a second tour.
In February 1936 Commander Rooks placed the new destroyer Phelps (DD-360) in commission and remained as her Commanding Officer until 1938. His next assignment was as a student at the Naval War College, and, upon completion of his studies, he served on that institution's staff. He was promoted to the rank of Captain on 1 July 1940, while still at the War College. In 1941 Rooks took command of the heavy cruiser Houston (CA-30), flagship of the Asiatic Fleet. He took his ship through the painfully difficult first three months of the Pacific War, when the Asiatic Fleet and its British and Dutch counterparts fought desperately against an overwhelming Japanese onslaught into Southeast Asia, the Philippines and the East Indies. Both Houston and her Commanding Officer were lost in the Battle of Sunda Strait, on 1 March 1942.
Captain Rooks was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for "extraordinary heroism, outstanding courage, gallantry in action and distinguished service in the line of his profession as Commanding Officer of the USS Houston during the period of 4 to 27 February, 1942, while in action with superior Japanese enemy aerial and surface forces." During this period Houston survived six air attacks and one major naval engagement, doing considerable damage to the enemy while being heavily damaged herself in one air attack and in the naval engagement. Captain Rooks died on the bridge as a result of enemy-inflicted wounds and went down with his ship after her courageous fight against overwhelming odds.
In 1944, the destroyer USS Rooks (DD-804) was named in honor of Captain Rooks.
The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers maintains Rooks Park, five miles east of Walla Walla, Washington, named in honor of Captain Rooks.