Ben Hooks

Benjamin Hooks

Benjamin Lawson Hooks was born in Memphis, Tennessee on January 31, 1925 and died on April 15, 2010. Over the course of his distinguished life, Hooks was a lawyer, state judge, Baptist minister, civil rights activist, commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission, and and executive director of the NAACP. After retiring from NAACP leadership in 1992, Hooks founded the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change at the University of Memphis in 1996. The Institute’s fundamental purpose continues to be the teaching, studying and promotion of civil rights and social change.

Benjamin Lawson Hooks, Chronology 

1925  Born in Memphis, TN.

1941  Graduates from Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis; enrolls at Lemoyne College.

1943  Drafted into the United States Army.

1946  Enrolls at DePaul University Law School in Chicago.

1949  Receives his J.D. from DePaul and returns to Memphis to practice law.

1951  Marries Frances Dancy.

1954  Runs an unsuccessful campaign to become State Legislator.

1956  Becomes pastor of Middle Baptist Church in Memphis, TN.

1959  Runs an unsuccessful campaign to become Juvenile Court Judge.

1961  Is appointed Assistant Public Defender of Shelby County.

1963  Makes second attempt to become Juvenile Court Judge; fails to win election.

1964  Becomes pastor of Greater New Mount Mariah Baptist Church in Detroit, MI.

1965  Becomes first African-American criminal court judge in Tennessee history.

1968  Resigns his seat on criminal court bench.

1972  Becomes the first African-American appointee to the Federal Communications Commission.

1977  Becomes Executive Director of the NAACP.

1983  Is suspended following a policy argument with the chair of the NAACP board of directors.
          (He is quickly reinstated by other members of the board)

1986  Is awarded the Spingairn Medal.

1990  Is a target of a racially motivated bombing attempt.

1992  Announces his retirement as Executive Director of the NAACP.

1993  Becomes President of Board of Directors of National Civil Rights Museum.

1996  Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change is founded at the University of Memphis.

2002  Joins the law firm of Wyatt, Terrant & Combs, L.L.P.

2007  Receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush.

2010  Hooks dies on April 15 at the age of 85 in Memphis, TN.

Chronology of life before 2002 is taken from Heather Lehr Wagner’s African-American Leaders: Benjamin Hooks, 88-89.