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Mayor A C Wharton's Statement on the Passing of Dr. Benjamin Hooks

Memphis, TN – April 15, 2010, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton issued the following statement in remembrance of Civil Rights icon, Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks:

 “ Memphis is saddened today by the loss of one of the great citizen-servants in our country’s history, Reverend Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks.  Our hearts and prayers are extended to his lovely wife Frances and the entire family during this difficult time. 

“Tragically, American ideals have often been alien to America ’s reality. 

In the same way that the Founding Fathers helped to shape the ideals for a new nation, Benjamin Hooks was among a rarefied class of Civil Rights leaders whose work in championing the cause of basic freedom and refining the very definition of opportunity transformed American life. 


“There are few if any major civil rights advances over the last 50 years that do not carry his fingerprint, whether through direct participation or indirect influence.  His calling as a minister, his training as a lawyer, and his personal association with the plight of the oppressed worked to make Benjamin Hooks one of the most prolific and engaged fighters for the common man and woman we’ve seen in this century.


“Dr. Hook’s life was itself an unfolding story of how obstacles can not stand against the steady flow of determined progress.  A World War II veteran, he broke barriers and blazed trails throughout his life including his time as a member of the Tennessee Criminal Court and as the first black Commissioner of the FCC. 

“In his widely-regarded role as the Executive Director of the NAACP, Dr. Hooks inherited fledging membership and donor support, a challenge he met squarely by setting a vision for the organization and rebuilding it to a position of strength and greater influence.  In the most relevant way, Dr. Hooks helped to further cultivate and refine the NAACP’s image as an organizational agent for change by keeping it on the forefront of the fight for equity and opportunity.

“Dr. Hooks was well aware of the need to continue the work in educating emerging generations of social advocates.  Dr. Hooks’ work in shaping and setting the vision of the Benjamin Hooks Institute for Social Change at the University of Memphis and his efforts as a longstanding partner with the National Civil Rights Museum underscored his efforts in passing on the history and a sense of responsibility to young people.

“As much as Dr. Hooks and his legacy belonged to the world, Memphis will forever be grateful to say he was one of our very own.  His joy was our joy; his successes emboldened us to dream.  This internationally-regarded Civil Rights pioneer was our friend.  We will miss him.”

The federal, state, and city flags at City Hall have been lowered to half-mast in honor of Dr. Hooks.