There are a lot of ways an oppressed people can rise. One way to rise is to study, to be smarter than your oppressor. The concept of rising against oppression through physical contact is stupid and self-defeating. It exalts brawn over brain. And the most enduring contributions made to civilization have not been made by brawn, they have been made by brain.
~ Benjamin Lawson Hooks (1925-2010)
Former executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Benjamin Lawson Hooks passed away today. The Reverend Hooks was 85.
Benjamin Hooks will forever be known as the fiery, outspoken and sometimes flashy leader of the NAACP (1977 to 1992) at the pinnacle of its activism on the heels of the civil rights movement and at the opening of an era of incredible political and social advances. He was known for fighting within the organization’s ranks as he was for fighting injustice. As the Los Angeles Times reports,
By the time he left as executive director in 1992, the group had rebounded, with membership growing by several hundred thousand. Toward this, he created community radiothons to make the public more aware of activities by local NAACP branches and boost membership.
Born in Memphis, Tenn., Hooks was the fifth of seven children. He was the son of the owner of a photography studio and the grandson of a woman, Julia Britton Hooks, who was the second black woman to graduate from college in the United States. He would graduate from Howard University and ultimately receive a juris doctorate from DePaul University in Chicago.
Hooks’ legal career placed him in the center of a racial maelstrom that would connect him with older and emerging black leadership such as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. During the day he used the courtroom to evangelize social change and on Sundays, the Lord’s day, the Baptist preacher Rev. Hooks would use the pulpit to preach advancement and empowerment.
Before joining the NAACP, Former President Richard Nixon appointed him as a commissioner of the FCC, where he fought to propose a new rule requiring TV and radio stations to be offered publicly before they could be sold. Minority employment in broadcasting grew from 3 percent to 15 percent during his tenure.
In 2007, then president George W. Bush presented Benjamin Hooks with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Benjamin Lawson Hooks leaves behind his wife, Frances.