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FCC Honors Benjamin Hooks

The FCC will host a ceremony July 19 to honor Dr. Benjamin Hooks.

Hooks was the first African American commissioner, serving from 1972 to 1977, having been appointed by Richard Nixon. But his other hats in a career stacked with firsts includes head of the NAACP, attorney, judge, professor, banker, businessman, minister, speaker, civil rights leader, and even broadcaster.

As a commissioner, Hooks, not surprisingly actively advocated for minority interests, but he was no radical, preferring to seek compromise. That meant settling for as much as he could get, with an eye toward getting more later, sort of the regulator version of that old "Grant me the serenity..." prayer.

As a judge, Hooks once told B&C he had delivered more suspended sentences than anyone else on the bench. "Everything in my background indicates that people deserve a second chance," he said.

"He was a great colleague and terrific public servant," says top communications lawyer Dick Wiley, who was chairman during Hooks' tenure. "He had a practical touch that cut through a lot of regulatory issues"

Wiley says he and Hooks teamed on the commission's first seminar bringing together minorities, bankers and brokers in the search for a private-sector solution to diversifying ownership.

The current commissioners and chairman, and some former members, are scheduled to speak, the latter including African American commissioners Andrew Barrett and Tyrone Brown.