Benjamin L. Hooks, a champion of minorities and the poor whose longtime tenure as executive director of the NAACP included leading his organization through a deadly firebombing campaign that targeted his group, has died. He was 85.
State Rep. Ulysses Jones, a family friend, said Hooks died early Thursday.
Hooks took over the NAACP in 1977 and, by declaring "the civil rights movement is not dead," restored momentum that had flagged after two decades of progress toward racial equality.
Hundreds of thousands of new members joined the NAACP during that period despite a rash of mail bombs in the South that targeted the group and killed two people in 1989.
Hooks was the first black appointee to the Federal Communications Commission in 1972 and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007.