Frances Dancy Hooks Fund

Dr. Benjamin and Mrs. Frances HooksFrances Louise Dancy was born on February 23, 1927 to Andrew Jackson Dancy and Georgia Harriet Graves Dancy, in Memphis Tennessee. Frances was raised in Memphis at attended St. Anthony La Rose Elementary School and graduated from Booker T. Washington High School. She served as class president during her sophomore year of high school in 1944. Later Frances attended Howard, Fist, and Wilberforce Universities. She graduated in 1949. Frances was both an educator and a guidance counselor. She taught second grade in a Shelby County, Tennessee Rosenwald School. Dr. Benjamin Hooks was born January 21, 1925 in Memphis, Tennessee. He grew up on South Lauderdale and Vance, and was the fifth of seven children. In his youth, he felt a calling to the Christian ministry. His father, however, did not approve and discouraged Benjamin from such a calling.Benjamin attended LeMoyne-Owen College, in Memphis, Tennessee where he studied pre-law. While in college he became more aware of the reality of segregation. “I wish I could tell you every time I was on the highway and couldn’t use a restroom," he would later recall. "My bladder is messed up because of that. Stomach is messed up from eating cold sandwiches.”In 1944 Benjamin graduated from Howard University, and soon after he joined the Army. After leaving the Army he started to apply to colleges to return to law school; however, no law school in Tennessee would admit him, so he enrolled at the DePaul University College of Law in Chicago. Benjamin immediately returned home to Memphis upon his graduation from DePaul University in 1948 with his Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree. By this time he was thoroughly committed to breaking down the practices of racial segregation that existed in the United States. Fighting prejudice at every turn, he passed the Tennessee bar exam and set up his own law practice. By 1949 he had earned a local reputation as one of the few black lawyers in Memphis.

In 1951 Frances and Benjamin Hooks married.  They had met at a Tri-State Fair. Frances recalled in Ebony magazine that her husband was “good looking, very quiet, very intelligent.” She added, “He loved to go around to churches and that type of thing, so I started going with him. He was really a god catch.” Frances and Benjamin raised one daughter, Patricia.

Despite his successful career, Benjamin still felt a calling to the Christian ministry and became an ordained Baptist minister. By the late 1960s Benjamin was a judge, businessman, lawyer, and minister. Fortunately for Benjamin his wife Frances matched him in energy and stamina. Frances put her career as a teacher and guidance counselor on hold to support the activities of her husband. Frances became her husband’s assistant, secretary, advisor, and traveling companion. “He said he needed me to help him”, she told Ebony. “Few husbands tell their wives that they need them after 30 years of marriage, so I gave it up and here I am, right by his side.”

In 1972 President Richard Nixon appointed Benjamin to be one of the five commissioners of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The Hooks moved to Washington, D.C. in 1972 after the Senate confirmed his nomination. In 1977 Benjamin became the executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). “Black Americans are not defeated,” he told Ebony soon after his formal induction in 1977. “The civil rights movement is not dead. If anyone thinks that we are going to stop agitating, they had better think again. If anyone thinks that we are going to stop litigating, they had better close the courts. If anyone thinks that we are not going to demonstrate and protest, they had better roll up the sidewalks.”

Frances also became involved with the organization and formed Women in the NAACP (WIN) with Earleen Bolden in 1980. WIN raised money for emergency relief by putting on fashion shows and social events; she also co-founded The People Power Project, which promoted black and white dialog, and the Memphis Volunteer Placement Program. In 1994, Frances and Benjamin were keynote speakers at Oregon State University for the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration.

In 2003, the OSU Office of Multicultural Affairs established this endowed scholarship fund in honor of Frances and Benjamin Hooks.  The fund awards annual scholarships to undergraduate students of color attending OSU.