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LeMoyne-Owen College Mourns the Passing of Civil Rights Icon Benjamin L. Hooks’45

MEMPHIS, TN (April 15, 2010) – The LeMoyne-Owen College Board of Trustees, Administration, Faculty, Staff, Students, and Alumni mourn the passing of The Reverend Dr. Benjamin Lawson Hooks’45 an alumnus and Emeritus Board Member of the College.  Dr. Hooks served on the LeMoyne-Owen College Board of Trustees from 1991 until his health began to fail in the early 2000s.  In 2002, he was elected to Emeritus status and remained in this role until his passing.  President Johnnie B. Watson declared a five-minute Memorial Tribute of Silence in memory of Rev. Dr. Hooks where all campus activities ceased and the LeMoyne-Owen College Family prayed silently.

            Dr. Hooks grew up in the south Memphis community and attended Booker T. Washington High School.  After attending LeMoyne-Owen College in the mid-1940s, he served a term in the military.  A long and noted career followed as Dr. Hooks went on to attend Howard University in Washington,
D. C., and to complete his Law Degree from DePaul University in Chicago.  He returned to Memphis to practice Law and became the first African American Criminal Court Judge in 1965.   He also became the first African American to serve on the Federal Communications Commission after he received an appointment to the Commission by then President Richard Nixon.  In one of his most visible roles, Dr. Hooks served as Executive Director of the NAACP.  Dr. Hooks was recipient of numerous awards including the NAACP's highest honor, the Spingarn Award, in 1986. On November 5, 2007, President George W. Bush awarded Dr. Benjamin. L. Hooks the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civil award, for a lifetime of public service. 

            My family has been close to Dr. Hooks for many years,” said LeMoyne-Owen College Board Chairman Robert Lipscomb.  “In fact, Dr. Hooks was a great friend to my grandmother, Bessie.  In the 1960s, Dr. Hooks served as her legal counsel in a number of Civil Rights matters.  Dr. Hooks was a role model for all of us and will be remembered as a Civil Rights champion who stood in the gap for others.  He will be missed by all of us,” Mr. Lipscomb said.

            I’ve known Dr. Hooks for more than 40 years,” said LeMoyne-Owen College President Johnnie B. Watson.  “I met Dr. Hooks during the 1960s when I worked as a Guidance Counselor alongside his wife, Frances.  I last saw Dr. Hooks when he preached his last sermon at Greater Middle Baptist Church, and Frances joked that day that I was much like Ben.  She said it seemed that I didn’t know when to quick working either!  Dr. Hooks was a major player on the national scene, but he also made many local contributions. He will be long remembered as the Founder of the LeMoyne-Owen College Annual International Tea, which has grown to become an event that provides ongoing support to the College.  On behalf of the enter LeMoyne-Owen Family, I express our deepest condolences to Mrs. Frances Dancey Hooks and the Hooks Family,President Watson said. 

For more information, please see the contact above.

 

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