Installed August 2016
Benjamin Hooks, born and raised in Memphis, TN, realized early in life that he wanted to become a lawyer and fight against racial prejudice and segregation. No law school in his native Tennessee would admit Black people at the time, so he went north and attended DePaul’s law school in 1946, graduating with his J.D. in 1948.
His experiences at DePaul helped him establish a successful law practice in Memphis. By 1965, he was appointed as the first African American to the Tennessee Criminal Law bench. In 1972 President Nixo
n appointed Hooks to head the F.C.C., and in 1976 he was asked to head the N.A.A.C.P., which he did until 1992. Throughout his career Hooks showed great talent in leadership, and courage in the face of many changes at both organizations.
The design in the Hooks pillar shows presents many of his accomplishments. The minister robes that he is featured in show that he was an ordained minister in the Baptist Church (1956). The grid design of his pillar features many of his great quotes on the fight for equality, and other awards. In 2007 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Much of the same grid features the logo from the Hooks Foundation for Racial Equality at the University of Memphis, with a gold buffalo insignia in the center. This insignia is the emblem of the Army unit that Hooks was part of in WW2. It was while he was in this unit that he made the decision to direct his life to the cause of racial equality.