Hooks Estate Provides Support for UofM
Although Dr. Benjamin Hooks and Frances D. Hooks never considered themselves wealthy, they were determined to provide philanthropic support through their estate to the organizations they valued.
After Ben's passing in 2010 and Frances' in 2016, the couple's estate made good on their promise. Their daughter, Patricia Hooks Gray, recently presented the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change at the University of Memphis a gift of $273,000 from her parents' estate. The gift is hopefully one of many as the Hooks Institute kicks off a national fundraising drive during its 20th anniversary in 2016.
The Hooks Institute for Social Change was founded in 1996 by Benjamin Hooks in conjunction with the Department of Political Science and College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Memphis. Its mission is teaching, studying and promoting civil rights and social change. As Patricia noted at a press conference earlier this year, "Educators, authors, leaders and community organizers have been to the Institute. They have given their knowledge, they have given their advice and they have given solutions to solve problems within the communities. Now we know that those things cost money and that's why we're here today—to get a gift that was left by them for the Institute. I believe that the gift will bring about social change."
Both Ben and Frances led meaningful and impactful lives. Ben was the first African American judge in a criminal court of record in Tennessee and the first African American to serve on the United States Federal Communications Commission. He was a confidant to Dr. Martin Luther King and a member of Dr. King's organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which focused on dismantling formal legal segregation in America. He later became the Executive Director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) where he advanced economic empowerment and racial equality for people of color and the poor. In 2007, President George W. Bush awarded Ben the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor that can be awarded to a civilian.
Frances was a devoted wife for more than 50 years, serving as Ben's confidant, traveling companion, appointment secretary and biggest supporter. During her husband's tenure as Executive Director of the NAACP, she worked with local chapters throughout the country as national coordinator of women, which addressed vital educational, social and health care issues.
Making gifts from their estate was important to Ben. In comments made in 2009 on the University of Memphis campus, he said that while he and Frances had never been large wage earners, they had worked hard, saved, and planned to make estate gifts. It was important for them to do so because the civil rights movement had opened doors of opportunity for them that had been shut to African Americans previously. By leaving gifts to important organizations, the couple hoped to encourage greater financial support by African Americans and others to support those institutions that advance human and civil rights.
The University is honored to be home to the Hooks Institute for Social Change and to have received this generous gift.
"Their financial gift to the Hooks Institute symbolizes their never-ending support—not just to this University—but to the welfare of all,” says University president, David Rudd.
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A charitable bequest is one or two sentences in your will or living trust that leave to the University of Memphis a specific item, an amount of money, a gift contingent upon certain events or a percentage of your estate.
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