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Benjamin Hooks
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    (January 31, 1925-April 15, 2010)
    Born in Memphis, Tennessee
    Attorney/Baptist minister/Civil rights activist
    Commissioner of the FCC (1973-78)
    Executive director of the NAACP (1977-92)
    Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2007)
    He was originally afraid of public speaking, saying of an address he gave as 8th grade salutorian, 'I shall never forget that speech -- I cried all the way through it.'
    He said, 'I wish I could tell you every time I was on the highway and couldn’t use a restroom. My bladder is messed up because of that.' (Not that I'm not sympathetic about being barred from places because of race, but couldn't he have taken a whizz by the side of the road like anyone else locked out of a rest stop?)
    He feuded with Margaret Bush Wilson, chair of the NAACP board of directors, who suspended him and accused him of mismanagement.
    He was married to Frances Dancy for 58 years until his death.
    During World War II, he guarded Italian POWs who were allowed to eat at restaurants that he was barred from.
    After the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., he spent the night traveling throughout Memphis calling for non-violence.
    He said about non-violence, 'The concept of rising against oppression through physical contact is stupid and self-defeating. It exalts brawn over brain. And the most enduring contributions made to civilization have not been made by brawn, they have been made by brain.'
    He was an advocate for self-help in the black community, saying 'I’m calling for a moratorium on excuses. I challenge black America today—all of us—to set aside our alibis.'
    Attending the inauguration of Barack Obama, he said 'In a nutshell, I am proud and happy to have lived to see this day.'

Credit: C. Fishel

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