The end of an era: Hooks announces retirement - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Ben Watson

The end of an era: Hooks announces retirement

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC-TV) - Famed civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Benjamin Hooks announced his plans on Sunday to retire from the church he has led for more than half a century.

Hundreds of Mid-Southerners turned out for what was a bittersweet Pastor Appreciation Day at Greater Middle Baptist Church, where Hooks began preaching 52 years ago.

He said he has enjoyed preaching the gospel, and laughed when he said he "had the reputation of being a pretty good preacher."

Hooks, 83, has been a guest preacher at some of the nation's most prominent churches, from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta to megachurches in Detriot.

But Hooks says health problems have forced him to retire from the pulpit. "Well, at the point I made my decision to retire, I was very, very ill. I had missed three or four Sundays in a row out of church, several times, and I didn't feel it was fair to people to remain as pastor," he said. "And number two, for my own sake and health, it would be better to retire."

The Memphis native also lead the NAACP for 15 years, served as an FCC commissioner and taught as an adjunct professor at the University of Memphis.

Memphis' Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library and the Benjamin Hooks Institute for Social Change at the University of Memphis are named in his honor.

Hooks spent his entire career campaigning for civil rights, and as he prepares to retire from preaching, he says he'll never retire from the fight for social justice and the desire to inspire young people. "And I'll say to you young people today, millions of opportunities black and white...don't fight change. Get with Obama. Help make this a better nation," he said. "Lets tear down the walls of discrimination and segregation, and march forward...sisterhood and brotherhood, from sea to shining sea."

Hooks said he attributes his many successes in life to his faith in God and the love of his wife Frances. "Well, without her, I couldn't have done it... put it that way!" 

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