Thursday, October 1, 2020

Latinovations Remembers Dr. Benajamin Hooks

Dr. Benjamin Hooks, former executive director of the NAACP and civil rights icon, passed away on Thursday morning at his home in Tennessee following a long illness.  He was 85.

Hooks was born in Memphis, Tennessee the fifth of seven children and experienced first hand the sting of racism and segregation.  A graduate of Howard University, he used the GI bill after serving in World War II to attend law school at DePaul University in Chicago when no school in the South would admit him.

In 1965, he became a member of the Tennessee Criminal Court making him the first black judge since Reconstruction anywhere in the South. He served as the first black FCC commissioner in 1972, and in 1977 he assumed the leadership of the 200,000-member NAACP.

At the time, the organization was facing a $1 million deficit; by the time he left it in 1992, the NAACP was debt free and its membership had grown by several hundred thousand.

Dr. Hooks was founder of The Children’s Health Forum, a non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention and eradication of childhood diseases that disproportionately impact underserved communities. He served as chair of the group’s Board of Directors and remained actively involved up until his death.

President and CEO of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Janet Murguía issued a statement saying, “The Hispanic community owes Dr. Hooks a special debt of gratitude. As chair of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, he facilitated the expansion of the civil rights agenda to include the concerns of Latinos, Asian Americans, American Indians, people with disabilities, and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.  He personally, courageously, and, at great cost to himself, led a floor fight at the NAACP convention in 1990, which led to the NAACP’s continued support of Hispanic civil rights organizations’ quest for more effective and humane immigration policies.”

For more on Dr. Hooks’ remarkable life, please see: Benjamin Hooks Dies; Led N.A.A.C.P.