His Life in the Church
by William C. Love
The Reverend Benjamin Hooks and His Life in the Church
“For as long as I can remember, the church has been an integral part of my life.” So opened Dr. Hooks in a chapter of his memoir entitled “My Life and the Church.” While Dr. Hooks is primarily remembered for his accomplishments as a lawyer, judge, and NAACP executive, Dr. Hooks devoted a substantial part of his life to the church, as both a layman and a minister. Dr. Hooks’ life in the church was both typical and atypical of a Southern Black man born in the early twentieth century. Hooks was unsurprisingly raised in the church and attended both Sunday school and worship services from a very early age with his family. The main driver of his childhood faith was his mother, with his father being largely indifferent to organized religion until later in life. Yet, in spite of being the son of committed member of the AME tradition and often attending AME worship services, Hooks was reared largely in an uncharismatic tradition. First Baptist Church, Hooks’ Sunday school church from an early age, was what he called a “blue stocking church” which incorporated “intellectual” sermons into worship services. It was led by Dr. T.O. Fuller, one of the only Memphis Black preachers to have a formal seminary education and who over the course of his life authored several books on Black history and the Black church. Even when attending the AME worship services, Hooks recalled that his mother never identified with the “shouting” aspects of many Black churches. For more information on Dr. Hooks, click here.