Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Leadership: Contributions

BOND: This is a hard question. What do you think is your greatest contribution as a leader?

HOOKS: That is a hard question. I have made a difference. And I say that -- maybe that's not enough modesty. On the bench when I went there, the judges did not believe in suspended sentences, although the statute gave us the right to. The four judges who were sitting on the criminal court bench had not ran it between them. Three suspended sentences in ten years. My first month on the bench, I granted seven by myself and faced the wrath of the newspaper. Over a period of years my philosophy has taken a hold in the courts, and now we see a tendency. If somebody, maybe a drunk driver, a kid in college, high school, why should we just send them to jail with no chance of rehabilitation? Another kind of thing. I've seen a quality of mercy in the criminal court that did not exist before. When I went to the FCC, there was no attention being paid particularly to the race issues. I've seen that change.

At the NAACP, I was able to help to solidify the structure, started a corporate campaign, buy the first building it had, institute some great programs which are still being carried on, building membership to its highest peak, and leave it intact, unsullied and unstained. In my church life I've been able to do some worthwhile things. And so if I've made any contribution at all, it's been hard and steady work, I thank God. And it's -- if I look at all the black-owned television stations, I look at these national anchors on television, when I look at the change that has come about because of NAACP fighting Hollywood -- you know, they don't thank us for it. I understand that. But the old image awards started by the Beverly Hill branch of Hollywood and the NAACP more than thirty years ago, breaking down doors, knocking down doors, now you see black people starring everywhere. Some of them can't spell NAACP. And being able to put the image awards on television, you know, was a big thing in my career. There are a lot of things I've been involved in that I'm very happy to have been a part of. And I don't know whether I'm able to say any one of them was greater than others. But I think that if I've had any success, it's been that I've been sort of single-mindedly devoted to whatever job I had at that point, doing the very best I can.