NAACP Salutes Rev. Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks, Presidential Medal of Freedom Awardee

Former NAACP Executive Director and Presidential Medal of Freedom Award winner, Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks.

The NAACP is proud of the latest accomplishment by one of its own. Rev. Dr. Benjamin Lawson Hooks was among eight who received the Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush yesterday. The Presidental Medal of Freedom is the nation’s highest civilian honor.

“This is a richly deserved honor,” said National NAACP Chairman Julian Bond. “Benjamin Hooks has had a stellar career – civil rights advocate and leader, minister, businessman, public servant – there are few who are his equal.”

The Presidential Medal of Freedom recognizes exceptional meritorious service. The medal was established by President Truman in 1945 to recognize notable service in war. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy reintroduced it as an honor for distinguished civilian service in peacetime.

 “As a civil rights activist, public servant, and minister of the Gospel, Dr. Hooks has extended the hand of fellowship throughout his years,” President Bush said in making the presentation. “It was not always an easy thing to do. Dr. Hooks was a calm yet forceful voice for fairness, opportunity, and personal responsibility. He never tired or faltered in demanding that our nation live up to its founding ideals of liberty and equality.”

 Dr. Hooks served as executive director of the NAACP from 1977 to 1992 and throughout his career has been a vocal campaigner for civil rights in the United States.

 During his tenure the Memphis native is credited with implementing many NAACP programs that continue today. The NAACP ACT-SO (Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics) competitions, a major youth talent and skill initiative, and Women in the NAACP began under his administration.

 In the late 1980s Dr. Hooks formed a relationship with Major League Baseball (MLB) that led to creation of a Sports Advisory Council and the expansion of employment opportunities for African Americans in MLB to include managers, coaches and positions in the executive suites of the franchises. He even threw the first pitch to open a World Series.

Hooks and staff launched the Fair Share Program where some 200 corporations agreed to participate in economic development projects in the black community. Dr. Hooks also initiated community radiothons to make the public more aware of local branch activities and boost NAACP membership. His NAACP work also broadened the scope of the annual NAACP Image Awards.

 The NAACP created the Benjamin L. Hooks Distinguished Service Award, in his honor which is awarded to persons for efforts in implementing policies and programs that promote equal opportunity. Dr. Hooks also hold ths NAACP’s highest award,  the Spingarn Medal, given to him in 1986.

 Dr. Benjamin Hooks currently serves as an adjunct professor for the Political Science department of the University of Memphis. In 1996, the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change was established at the University of Memphis. The institute works to advance understanding of the legacy of the American civil rights movement – and of other movements for social justice – through teaching, research and community programs that emphasize social movements, race relations, strong communities, public education, effective public participation, and social and economic justice.

 Dr. Hooks joins a growing list of NAACPers who are Presidential Medal of Freedom awardees. Long-time NAACP Executve Director Roy Wilkins, Montgomery bus boycott catalyst Rosa Parks and former NAACP Washington Bureau Dircetor Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr. all hold the distinguished honor.

 Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization.  Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.

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