Civil rights leader Benjamin Hooks dies
Benjamin Hooks, longtime NAACP director and champion of minorities and the poor, died early this morning at his home in Tennessee. He was 85.
Dr. Hooks was a lawyer and preacher who became one of the country's great civil rights leaders. In 2007, President George W. Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the country. (Here's a photo gallery of some of his life's highlights.)
"Dr. Hooks was a calm yet forceful voice for fairness, opportunity and personal responsibility," said George W. Bush, presenting Dr. Hooks the Presidential Medal of Freedom. "He never tired or faltered in demanding that our nation live up to its founding ideals of liberty and equality."
In the 1960s, Dr. Hooks became the first black judge since the Civil War to sit on a state trial court in the South when he was appointed to the Tennessee Criminal Court.
In the 1970s, he became the first black commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission when President Richard Nixon appointed him to that post. He pushed through a new rule requiring television and radio stations to be offered publicly before they could be sold; minority employment in the broadcast industry increase fivefold during his five-year tenure.
In 1977, he took the helm of the NAACP, an organization whose membership and influence had dwindled since the 1950s and 60s, the days of Rosa Parks and the March on Washington.
"Black Americans are not defeated," he told Ebony magazine after becoming the NAACP's director. "The civil rights movement is not dead. If anyone thinks that we are going to stop agitating, they had better think again."
He led the organization until 1992, successfully boosting its enrollment and visibility.
Here, a tribute to him on his 80th birthday:
A full obituary will follow.
April 15, 2010; 8:46 AM ET
Categories: Emma Brown | Tags: African-American Civil Rights Movement, Benjamin Hooks, Benjamin Hooks died, Benjamin Hooks obituary, Civil and political rights, George W. Bush, Presidential Medal of Freedom, Richard Nixon, Rosa Parks
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