Benjamin L. Hooks
|It would be very difficult to become a more prominent Memphian than did he did. Benjamin Hooks died in Memphis April 15, 2010.
Just listing Hooks' accomplishments and honors probably could fill paragraphs. He was a lawyer, a judge, a preacher, a civil rights leader, President and CEO of the national NAACP, an FCC Commissioner, and a recipient of honorary degrees and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (the highest civilian honor the United States of America bestows).
Hooks served on the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. After the assassination of King in Memphis in 1968, Hooks is credited with others as helping save the city from the destruction that occurred in other American cities. Using credentials issued by the police department, he moved throughout the city despite curfews and calmed the agitated and grieving, reminding them of Dr. King's message of non-violence.
In 1965, Hooks was appointed, and then later elected to the same post, as the first black criminal court judge in Tennessee history. In 1972, President Richard Nixon appointed him to sit on the Federal Communications Commission. In 1976, Hooks was elected Executive Director of the national NAACP, which he went on to lead for 15 years. In n2007, President George W. Bush presented Hooks with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor the country bestows.
For many in Memphis and beyond, of course, he was a friend, an inspiring leader, and a minister.