Civil rights pioneer Hooks delivers final sermon as pastor - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Kontji Anthony

Civil rights pioneer Hooks delivers final sermon as pastor

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC-TV) - His accomplishments read like a history book: NAACP executive director, Leadership Council on Civil Rights chairman, FCC commissioner, Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, businessman, judge, WMC-TV host and producer, author, loving husband and father.

And on Sunday, Rev. Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks retired as pastor of Greater Middle Baptist Church, and he departed with an electric sermon.

The congregation jumped to their feet and applauded as Hooks took the pulpit.
 
His 20-minute sermon weaved scripture and current events into a message of hope and perseverance, drawing from more than half a century of civil rights victories.

"We've come a long, long way! Long way!," he said. "Back of the bus, couldn't eat at the restaurants. Had to go to separate schools, but we made the schools worthwhile."

The health limitations that led Hooks to retire couldn't stop the 83-year-old from driving a dynamic charge through the standing-room-only congregation, which included Congressman Steve Cohen, State Rep. G.A. Hardaway, District Attorney General Billy Gibbons and LeMoyne-Owen College President Johnny Watson.

"I heard, I heard...I heard the voice of Jesus say 'fight on!,'" he said.
 
Hooks thanked his wife, Frances, and asked the community to welcome his successor, Rev. Kenneth Pinkey.

His last moments on the pulpit were reflective, yet forward-moving.

"We fought on and proved that jails couldn't get us all! Water hoses couldn't drive us out. Billy clubs couldn't beat us out!," he said.

He brought the entire church to its feet with his final words, encouraging the community to continue to fight for civil rights: "Fight on!  Fight on! Fight on! Fight on! Yes, fight on!"

Hooks says he will still preach from time to time as a guest pastor.


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