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.
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.
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.
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.