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Francis Hooks, widow of Memphis pastor and civil rights leader Doctor Benjamin L. Hooks, died Thursday. She was 88 years old.

Frances Dancy Hooks, the civil rights activist and widow of Dr. Benjamin Hooks, died Thursday, reports WREG TV. The prominent educator and philanthropist was 88.

As co-founder of the Memphis Volunteer Placement program, she helped draw Black students to some of the nation’s best private boarding schools, notes the report.

Dr. Hooks died in 2010. He was the first African-American commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission, and served as executive director of the NAACP from 1977-1992.

From The Commercial Appeal:

Mrs. Hooks, 88, leaves behind a legacy of activism devoted to improving education, race relations and women’s rights in Memphis and across the nation.

A graduate of Booker T. Washington High School, Mrs. Hooks earned a bachelor’s degree from Fisk University in Nashville and a master’s degree from Tennessee State University. Mrs. Hooks began her 24-year career as an educator in Memphis but later served as secretary and adviser to her husband Ben, whom she called “the Catch of Memphis.”

“So many people think of her husband, Dr. Ben Hooks, but she was such a person of incredible competence in her own right,” said Jean Varnell, a friend of nearly 50 years. “They were such a team together.”

The NAACP released a statement Friday mourning the loss:

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is deeply saddened at the passing of Memphis educator and civil rights advocate Frances Hooks.  Ms. Hooks, known for her dedication to education and philanthropic endeavors – both in her home in Memphis, Tennessee, and nationwide – was the dedicated wife of former NAACP leader Benjamin L. Hooks.

Frances Hooks married the renowned civil rights figure in 1951, proving to be his greatest advocate and supporter until his death in 2010.  A second grade teacher in Shelby County, Tennessee, Ms. Hooks put her career on hold to assist her husband in his own roles as an activist and civil rights leader.  The couple moved to Washington, D.C. in 1972 when Mr. Hooks became the first African-American appointee to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Benjamin Hooks, who began his career as a minister and attorney, rose in the legal system to become a judge and, later executive director of the NAACP, serving from 1977 to 1993.  

During her husband’s tenure as executive director, Ms. Hooks became a major figure within the organization as well.  Along with fellow member Earleen Bolden, she organized the trailblazing Women in the NAACP (WIN), an unprecedented project which aimed to enhance the leadership roles of women both within the Association and in everyday life.  She also co-founded The People Power Project, a community advocacy group for race relations and social justice outreach, and the Memphis Volunteer Placement Program.  Both organizations continue her legacy to this day.

A true example of civil rights fortitude and social responsibility, Frances Hooks was 88 years old. She leaves behind the couple’s only daughter, Patricia, two grandsons and great-grandsons.  

It is with the deepest gratitude and admiration for Frances Hooks’ lifetime of civil rights dedication that the thoughts and prayers of the NAACP and its national constituency go out to her family.  

Hooks’ funeral is scheduled to be held Friday, Jan. 22.

Thank you, Mrs. Hooks. Rest in peace.



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