For release: October 2, 2009
For press information, contact Curt Guenther, 901/678-2843
A talk by the Rev. Benjamin L. Hooks at the U.S. Capitol on October 6 will inaugurate
a new speaker series on Capitol Hill sponsored by the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute
for Social Change at the University of Memphis. The theme of the series is Civil Rights and Social Justice: Past, Present and Future. During his 5 p.m. Washington, D.C., lecture, Hooks will share his insights on the
profound changes in American society that flowed from the American Civil Rights Movement,
while also addressing the urgency of eliminating remaining racial, economic, and other
disparities in America.
Rev. Benjamin L. Hooks
This coming November 4, at 6 p.m. in the Michael D. Rose Theatre at the University
of Memphis, Hooks will present the same lecture. The Memphis lecture is free and open
to the public.
In 2010, on dates that will be announced later, the Hooks Institute will continue
its Capitol Hill Speaker Series. Those lectures will feature University of Memphis
faculty. Their lectures, like Hooks’, will be repeated at the University of Memphis.
The lectures are intended to stimulate discussion about disparities in a changing
twenty-first century America and ways to address those disparities.
In announcing the new initiative, Hooks Institute Director Daphene R. McFerren said,
“Having witnessed seminal historic moments during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries,
Dr. Hooks first bore witness to an America that denied basic civil rights to African-Americans,
then to an America that was forced to hear the voices of civil rights activists who
demanded that the nation honor its highest founding principle – that all people are
created equal. Those who attend this lecture will become part of a historic moment
in which Hooks, a civil rights icon, will share his thoughts about the quest for racial
equality and will explain how those experiences are relevant to tackling racial, economic,
and other disparities that defeat individual potential.”
A native of Memphis, Benjamin Hooks was born in 1925, the fifth of seven children
of Robert and Bessie Hooks. He earned his undergraduate degree at LeMoyne-Owen College
in Memphis, served in World War II, and later received a law degree from DePaul University
in Chicago. After joining the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership
Conference, Hooks felt called to the ministry and was ordained a Baptist minister
Nine years later, Tenn. Gov. Frank G. Clement appointed Hooks to fill a vacancy on
the Shelby County Criminal Court. With that appointment, he became the first African-American
judge in a court of record in the South. The following year he ran as a candidate
for the position and won that election.
In 1972, President Richard Nixon appointed Hooks as the first African-American member
of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). During his tenure, he addressed the
lack of minority ownership of television and radio stations, the lack of minority
employment in the broadcasting industry, and the image of blacks in the mass media.
On November 6, 1976, Hooks was elected Executive Director of the NAACP, a position
he held until 1992. In 2007, Hooks was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom –
the nation’s highest civil award.
In 1996, Hooks and University of Memphis officials received approval from the Tennessee
Board of Regents to create the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change at the
University of Memphis. The mission of the Institute is to preserve the history of
the American Civil Rights Movement and to advance the legacy of that movement through
scholarship and community action. The Hooks Institute archives include Hooks’ personal
papers, which are housed in the Mississippi Valley Collection in the U of M’s McWherter
Founded in 1912, the University of Memphis today is a comprehensive metropolitan research
university that is recognized nationally and internationally for its academic, research,
and athletic programs. With more than 21,000 students, the U of M offers more than
254 areas of study for those seeking Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral degrees. It
also offers the juris doctor (law) and education specialist degrees.