- Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site
International Civil Rights: Walk of Fame
Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks
Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks
1925 - 2010

Lifelong civil rights activist the Reverend Benjamin Hooks was born in Memphis, Tennessee. At an early age, Hooks was inspired to excel in his education, largely due to the influence of his grandmother. She was the second black woman in the United States to graduate from college. Hooks’ education took him to LeMoyne College in Tennessee and later transferred to Howard University and joined the Army, where he guarded Italian prisoners of war. Graduating from Howard in 1944, he went to DePaul University in Chicago for his J. D.

Facing racism everywhere he went, Hooks began to fight to change the problems. He returned to Memphis after law school and set up his own practice. After joining the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Hooks was ordained as a minister and began preaching. In 1965, he was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Tennessee criminal court judicial bench, becoming the first African American to serve in Tennessee. He became the first African American to serve on the Federal Communications Commission in 1972. When he left the FCC, he was voted the national executive director of the NAACP, where he served from 1977 until 1992. Hooks and his family were among the targets of a series of racially motivated bombings. He retired in 1992.

Hooks has been the recipient of several honorary degrees and human rights awards, and has been honored by Congress.