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U.Va. Readies Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Program

Civil Rights Leader Benjamin L. Hooks Is Keynote Speaker

January 11, 2002-- The Rev. Benjamin L. Hooks, a lawyer and Baptist preacher born in the segregated South who has dedicated his life to advancing the civil rights of African Americans, will be the keynote speaker for the University of Virginia’s 2002 celebration of the life of Martin Luther King Jr.

The program, "Abiding and Audacious Faith: The Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.," will be held Jan. 22, at 7 p.m. in Old Cabell Hall. It is free and open to the public.

In addition to Hook’s talk -- "Where Do We Go From Here?" -- the program will feature King’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech delivered by fourth-year student James Nowlin III, a presentation by the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and dancing by the Mahogany Dance Troupe.

The program is co-sponsored by the U.Va. Office of African-American Affairs, the Office of Equal Opportunity Programs, the Office of the Dean of Students, the Center for Religion and Democracy, the Institute for Public History, the Cultural Programming Board and the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration.

Benjamin L. Hooks

Hooks was born in Memphis, Tenn., in 1925 into a family that prized education -- his grandmother was a college graduate.

He attended a pre-law program at LeMoyne College in Memphis from 1941-43, and attended Howard University the next year. World War II delayed his education, sending him to serve with the U.S. Army in the European theater where he received a promotion to the rank of staff sergeant. After the war, he headed to Chicago to study law at DePaul University, earning his J.D. degree in 1948. He then returned to Memphis, passed the Tennessee Bar and opened his own law practice, becoming one of the few black lawyers in the city.

In the 1950s, Hooks was ordained a Baptist minister and joined Martin Luther King Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He also began participating in civil rights protests sponsored by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In 1965, Tennessee Gov. Frank G. Clement appointed him to the Shelby County criminal court, making him the first black criminal court judge in the state. He won election to a full term in office the following year.

He moved with his wife to Washington, D.C., in 1972, when President Richard Nixon named him to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Under his watch, minority employment in the U.S. broadcasting industry rose from 3 to 15 percent.

In 1977, Hooks took over as director of the NAACP, serving as its director for the next 15 years. In the 1950s and 1960s, the organization counted almost half a million members, but membership fell by more than half in the 1970s. As director, Hooks worked to rebuild the organization’s membership and bolster its financial strength.

Critical of elected officials’ limited attention to issues relating to inner-city poverty and public education, Hooks has encouraged a stronger commitment to self-help within the black community, urging successful African Americans to help those less fortunate.

Contact: Charlotte Crystal, (434) 924-6858

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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