BALTIMORE, MD – The NAACP family is deeply saddened by the passing of Executive Director and CEO Emeritus Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks. Dr. Benjamin Hooks served as Executive Director and CEO of the NAACP from 1977-1992.
“Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks was among the greatest Americans of the 20th Century. He was a giant of hope and humanity who, as Executive Director and CEO of the NAACP, expanded the circle of opportunity in our nation for millions by greatly accelerating the desegregation of our largest corporations. He was a crusading lawyer-the first Black judge in Tennessee since Reconstruction- who confronted Southern Justice on behalf of the down trodden and oppressed. He was a courageous and committed preacher of the Word who, as chairman of the Leadership Conference for Civil Rights, insisted that our nation acknowledge and respect the dignity of all Americans regardless of race and ethnicity, as well as gender and sexual orientation. He was a great organizer, communicator, and mentor to legions of young leaders who continue to define our nation today. He was simply the greatest living person to have served as Executive Director and CEO of the NAACP. We will miss him dearly” stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous.
“Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks was a dynamic NAACP CEO who lifted the organization and by force of personality gave it a heightened presence on the national scene. He performed my wedding ceremony to my wife Pam and was a stalwart advisor during my tenure as Chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors. Dr. Hooks will be much missed,” stated Chairman Emeritus Julian Bond.
NAACP Chairman Emeritus Myrlie Evers-Williams added: “I am deeply saddened by the loss of my personal friend and one of America’s most outstanding civil rights leaders Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks. Dr. Hooks was one of the strongest supporters of my husband Medgar Evers, and a strong supporter of mine during my three years as Chairman of the Board. He was a trusted advisor and never ceased to share his wisdom on pressing issues of the day. He welcomed the involvement of all people in the NAACP and the civil rights movement. I know that his spirit will remain with us as we move forward in the struggle for justice and equality.”
“The NAACP and the Civil Rights movement lost a giant today. Dr. Hooks was a man who broke down racial barriers throughout his entire life, and dedicated his personal and professional life to the struggle for all people of color. I had the pleasure of serving as National President of the NAACP while Dr. Hooks was Executive Director and CEO. He worked tirelessly to ensure that all Americans were treated equally and righteously, he inspired everyone he spoke to and dealt with. Without a leader like Dr. Hooks we would not have the generation of leaders we have today, Chairman Roslyn Brock and President and CEO Jealous. Dr. Hooks will be missed terribly,” stated NAACP New York State Conference President Hazel N. Dukes.
Hooks was born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1925. He graduated from Howard University in 1944 and then joined the army shortly thereafter where he earned the rank of staff sergeant. After completing his army duty, Dr. Hooks enrolled in DePaul University College of Law after no Tennessee law school would admit him. Upon receiving his law degree, Hooks returned to Memphis to practice law and he joined the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In 1965 he became Tennessee’s first black criminal court judge and in 1972 Richard Nixon appointed him to be one of the five commissioners of the FCC. On November 6, 1976, the NAACP Board of Directors elected Hooks as Executive Director where he served until 1992.
Dr. Hooks spoke at the NAACP’s Centennial Convention in New York last July and left the NAACP with words to live by: “Let’s fight on until justice runs down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream. Let’s fight on until there is no down-sizing, until there is no glass ceiling. Let’s fight on until God shall gather the four winds of heaven; until the angel shall plant one foot on the sea and the other on dry land and declare that the time that has been will be no more. Fight on, until the lion shall lie down with the lamb. Fight on, until justice, righteousness, hopes equality and opportunity is the birthright of all Americans.”
Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.