February 23rd is the birthday of a remarkable woman, Frances Dancy Hooks. In 1949, Mrs. Hooks, wife and steadfast partner of the late Benjamin Hooks, began a career in education that would span 24 years.
She made a name for herself as a teacher and guidance counselor in the Memphis City School System. Among her many achievements was the co-founding of the Memphis Volunteer Placement Program, an effort to bring volunteer counselors to work with African-American Students.
In 1951, soon after starting her career, she married “the Catch of the City,” a young lawyer by the name of Benjamin Hooks. In 1956, the Hooks family desegregated the all-white Parkway East community. In 1968, in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement, Frances Dancy Hooks organized the People of Power Project, a group of black and white teenagers who worked for a better understanding of racial problems.
In 1973, Benjamin Hooks became the first African-American appointee to the Federal Communications Commission. Frances put her career on hold to be her husband's assistant, secretary, adviser, and traveling companion. Then, in 1977, her husband became Executive Director of the NAACP. Frances Hooks and Earleen Bolden soon organized Women in the NAACP. Frances Hooks spent much of the 1990's as the National Coordinator for WIN, as the group had become known. She encouraged local chapters to focus on such issues as teen pregnancy, black history, and AIDS. Locally, she served on the Advisory Board of Rhodes College and the Memphis Symphony League.
Frances Hooks features prominently in a new temporary exhibit at the Pink Palace called Women of Strength, Women of Color. The exhibit includes a number of artifacts that tell Mrs. Hooks' story and also features such important African-American women as Veronica Coleman Davis, Maxine Atkins Smith, Claudine Penn, Rochelle Stephens, Sara Church, Miriam DeCosta-Willis, and Lizzie Douglass (better known as “Memphis Minnie”).
Here is wishing a happy birthday and many happy returns to Frances Dancy Hooks.