UofM’s Hooks Institute Creates Two Endowments in Memory of Benjamin and Frances Dancy Hooks

November 19, 2019 - The Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change at the University of Memphis has created two endowed accounts to ensure a lasting impact of the generous gifts made to the Institute by Hooks and his wife, Frances Dancy Hooks, in 2016. Each fund will be endowed with $50,000 from the family’s initial gift and will enable the Institute to further the work of social change they championed. “The Hooks endowments are the legacies of two special people who worked tirelessly uplifting others,” said their daughter, Patricia Hooks Gray.

About The Frances Dancy Hooks Fund for Social Change Through the Arts

The Frances Dancy Hooks Fund for Social Change Through the Arts will provide resources to support programming highlighting and promoting the role of the arts and culture in the work of social change. Born and raised in Memphis, Frances Dancy Hooks was an educator, activist and church member, and spent her life fighting for racial and gender equality in Memphis and throughout the nation. A graduate of Fisk University, Hooks was among the first African American women to teach at Carver High School in Memphis. As part of her life of perseverance guided by faith, she participated in many of the efforts of the civil rights movement, including the historic march for voting rights from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. When her husband was elected executive director of the NAACP, Hooks took on her own role within the organization, including organizing and leading Women in NAACP (WIN). Through her work with the NAACP and other organizations, she influenced the trajectory of initiatives involving education, poverty and women's rights, and her work at the intersection of African American and women’s civil rights greatly influenced modern women’s history.

About The Benjamin L. Hooks Fund for Community Uplift

The Benjamin L. Hooks Fund for Community Uplift will provide resources to elevate community involvement in social change. A native of Memphis, Benjamin Lawson Hooks served in the U.S. Army during World War II and graduated from LeMoyne College in Memphis before earning a law degree from DePaul University in 1948. He was subsequently ordained a Baptist minister in 1956. In both his legal work and his work in the ministry, Hooks confronted prejudice and advocated for civil rights at every turn. In 1965, he became the first African American criminal court judge in a court of record in Tennessee, and in 1972, he was the first African American appointee to the Federal Communications Commission. In 1976, Hooks was elected executive director of the NAACP and led the nation’s preeminent civil rights organization for 15 years. For his career and service, Hooks was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civil award, in 2007. In retirement, Hooks continued to support the work of social change and helped create the Institute which bears his name. 

 The Legacy of Benjamin and Frances Hooks

“In a speech at the UofM on Nov. 4, 2009, Dr. Benjamin Hooks stated that while he and Mrs. Frances Hooks were never large wage earners, they were leaving in their estates’ financial gifts to the Hooks Institute,” said Daphene R. McFerren, executive director of the Hooks Institute. “He remarked that he and Mrs. Hooks were especially grateful to estate gifts to institutions because historical discrimination against African Americans had far too often prevented wealth accumulation among African Americans to allow institutional gifts. He hoped that his estate gift would inspire others to give.”

About the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change
The Benjamin L. Hooks Institute implements its mission of teaching, studying and promoting civil rights and social change through research, education and direct intervention programs. Institute programs include community outreach; funding faculty research initiatives on community issues; implementing community service projects; hosting conferences, symposiums and lectures; and promoting local and national scholarship on civil and human rights. The Hooks Institute is an interdisciplinary center at the University of Memphis. Contributed revenue for the Hooks Institute, including funding from individuals, corporations and foundations, is administered through the University of Memphis Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization.

Visit memphis.edu/benhooks for more information.

Nathaniel C. Ball | 901.678.3655 | ncball@memphis.edu