By Pharoh Martin, NNPA National Correspondent –
WASHINGTON (NNPA) - The news of the death of former NAACP Executive Director and CEO Benjamin Hooks has reverberated to the very core of America's civil rights and political leadership, according to statements that poured into the NNPA News Service last week.
“Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks was among the greatest Americans of the 20th Century,” said NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “He was a giant of hope and humanity who, as executive director and CEO of the NAACP, expanded the circle of opportunity in our nation for millions by greatly accelerating the desegregation of our largest corporations.”
Jealous described the 85-year-old Dr. Hooks as “simply the greatest living person to have served as Executive Director and CEO of the NAACP”.
Hooks was also a Baptist minister, a lawyer, an FCC commissioner, a businessman and a judge. But he was best known as a civil rights leader who resurrected the nation's oldest civil rights organization as its long-time executive director from 1977 to 1992.
A viewing for Hooks was scheduled for Monday, April 19 at Greater New Mt. Moriah Baptist Church in Detroit. His funeral was set for Wednesday in Memphis.
Under Hooks' leadership, the organization led the way of pressuring Congress to pass the extension of such landmark legislation such the civil rights and voting rights bills. Also, NAACP's membership base reportedly grew by hundreds of thousands during his tenure.
“Dr. Hooks led this organization to new heights, and we will continue to honor his legacy by fighting on, in his words with truth, justice and righteousness on our side,” stated NAACP Chairman Roslyn M. Brock. “…He was a civil rights icon and my mentor and personal friend. He taught me to stand up for what I believe in; even in the face of adversity, and that the struggle for civil and human rights for all Americans never ends.”
President Obama called Hooks a “true trailblazer” who, as the first African-American to serve as a criminal court judge in Tennessee and to serve on the Federal Communications Commission, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work. He received the medal from President Bush in 2007.
Obama said, “As I was running for this office, I had the honor of spending some time with Dr. Hooks, and hearing about his extraordinary place in our American story.”
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said that Hooks helped shape the modern day civil rights movement.
“With great patriotism, he led the day-to-day efforts to root out discrimination and injustice and worked on behalf of equality and opportunity for all Americans for more than half of a century,” Pelosi said. “Dr. Hooks had a remarkable career: as a judge, an FCC Commissioner, and as a minister. He was a man of deep faith and bold convictions. He was also a man of action; in his calm yet determined way, he worked so that our nation would live up to the aspirations of all of its people.”
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said that Hooks' “contributions resonate within the African-American community but will have a lasting impact on all Americans.”
NAACP created the Benjamin L. Hooks Distinguished Service Award, which is awarded to persons who promote equal opportunity through policies and programs.
National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial said, “He cautioned us never to forget the struggles of our forbearers, and never to take for granted our gains. He challenged us all to be our best, and in his memory we renew our commitment to social and economic justice and personal empowerment.”
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