Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Influential People: Teachers

BOND: You mentioned high school principals and a teacher lifting a hand and quieting the room. What educational figures early on besides these two had an influence on you? Do you remember a particular teacher or particular --

HOOKS: Yes. I remember Gertrude Edwards who, by the way, I later pastored, did something to me, for me or something. I don't know how to describe it, but in those days, she was a stern disciplinarian. And you knew not to play around with her. Third grade. And she went out of the class one day and we all were cutting up as we did then. You know, talking and moving about. And when she came back in we sort of froze. And one little girl, in those days we called them a, you know, tattle-tail, and she said, "Miss Edwards, it was Judy, it was Ben -- " She'd start calling names. And Miss Edwards looked at me and said, "I don't believe Ben acted a fool when I was gone. I believe if I went to town and came back, he would act like he had some sense." Well, the fact of the matter is I didn't know how much that tested me. All of my life I've recognized that people expected something of me and that I owed it to them. Now she knew I had cut up, but what she did was put me under a psychological obligation not to ever do it again. And that happened in the third grade. Now I guess I've never forgotten that lesson, that she didn't expect Ben to act a fool if she went to town and came back. And from that day on I tried to, you know, model myself in the way that, whether people are looking at me or not, I could do the things that I thought were right.

BOND: Now, of these figures who were in the building where your father's studio was -- the lawyer, the doctor, the ministers you met there -- why was the lawyer particularly appealing to you as opposed to the doctor?

HOOKS: Well, I don't know except that I suppose that somehow I wanted to be a preacher. My father was not so much in love with organized religion. I think he'd seen too much -- too many things. By the way, I baptized my father many years later and he became a devoted member of my church.