Memphis-native Benjamin L. Hooks was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush in 2007. He received the nation’s highest civil honor for his tireless work and life-long commitment to civil rights. After attending Lemoyne-Owen, Hooks served in World War II and earned his juris doctorate from DePaul University. He returned to Memphis and joined Rev. Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, becoming an ordained Baptist minister in 1956. With a career in the ministry and the legal field, he was the first African American appointee to the Federal Communications Commission in 1972. Four years later, Hooks was elected as executive director of the NAACP. After years of distinguished leadership, he retired in 1992 at age 67 and became a distinguished adjunct professor of political science at the University of Memphis. The university established the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change in 1996. Hooks was inducted in the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site on January 12, 2008, and passed away in 2010.
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