Wed April 21, 2010
Funeral Of Benjamin Hooks: The Civil Rights Renaissance Man
By Eleanor Boudreau
Memphis, TN – About 3,000 people gathered at the Temple of Deliverance Church of God In Christ on G.E. Patterson Avenue for the funeral of Benjamin Hooks.
Memphis Mayor A C Wharton, Jr. remembered Hooks as the Renaissance man of the Civil Rights Movement, "He was with the FCC in D.C., but now he's with JC in the throne room."
The current President of the NAACP, Benjamin Jealous, remembered Hooks as someone more than human. "He was like Superman to me," Jealous said. "The 21st century is here, Dr. Hooks brought it to us! He made it real!"
But Hooks was born into the 20th century. At the funeral Judge Russell Sugarman, Jr. recalled a time he went with Hooks to visit some kids who had been arrested at a sit-in in Haywood County. The jail was surrounded by angry protesters, and as the black visitors were leaving, the sheriff offered to escort them.
Hooks was driving between the Sheriff and his deputy, and someone in the car said it looked like a funeral procession.
Hooks said, "What the hell you say a thing like that at a time like this?" " The right Reverend Hooks came off the pulpit," Sugarman laughed.
Despite the police escort, a bullet scrapped their windshield. Sugarman ducked, then thought of Hooks.
"I felt guilty," Sugarman said. "Everybody is down behind these cushions safe, and he got to sit up there and drive."
So, Sugarman looked up, "And he [Hooks] is down, too! I ducked my head back, said, Benny, can you see the road?'"
Hooks replied, "I can feel the shoulder."
It's a story that is only funny now.
At the funeral Representative Steve Cohen announced a congressional resolution to honor Hooks. President Obama sent a delegate with a letter. The president wrote that Hooks will be missed.