Olivia Hooker

Olivia Hooker
Olivia Hooker DVIDS1101558.jpg
Hooker in 2011
Olivia Juliette Hooker

(1915-02-12)February 12, 1915
Died November 21, 2018(2018-11-21) (aged 103)
Education Ohio State University (BA)
Columbia University (MA)
University of Rochester (PhD)
Military career
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Coast Guard
Years of service 1945–1946
Rank Yeoman Second Class
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Coast Guard Good Conduct Medal

Olivia Juliette Hooker (February 12, 1915 – November 21, 2018) was an American psychologist and professor. She was the last known survivor of the Tulsa race riots of 1921, and the first African-American woman to enter the U.S. Coast Guard in February 1945. Hooker became a SPAR (Semper Paratus Always Ready), a member of the United States Coast Guard Women's Reserve, during World War II, earning the rank of Yeoman, Second Class during her service.[1][2] She served in the Coast Guard until her unit was disbanded in mid-1946; she went on to become a psychologist and a professor at Fordham University.[3][4]

Early life and education

Hooker was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, to Samuel Hooker and Anita Hooker (née Stigger).[5][6] During the Tulsa race riots of 1921, Ku Klux Klan members ransacked her home while she hid under a table with her three siblings.[7][8] She later was a founder of the Tulsa Race Riot Commission in hopes of demanding reparations for the riot's survivors.[2] In 2003, she was among survivors of the riot to file an unsuccessful federal lawsuit seeking reparations.[9]

After the riots, her family moved to Columbus, Ohio, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in 1937 from The Ohio State University.[10] While at OSU, she joined the Delta Sigma Theta sorority where she advocated for African-American women to be admitted to the U.S. Navy.[11] In 1947, she received her Masters from the Teachers College of Columbia University,[12] and in 1961 she received her PhD in psychology from the University of Rochester.[13]


U.S. Coast Guard

Olivia Hooker (front) with Aileen Anita Cooks (behind) on the USS Commodore (nicknamed USS Neversail) during boot training, Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn

Hooker applied to the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) of the U.S. Navy, but was rejected due to her ethnicity.[13] She disputed the rejection due to a technicality and was accepted. However, she had already decided to join the Coast Guard.[14] She entered the U.S. Coast Guard in February 1945. On March 9, 1945, she went to basic training for six weeks in Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn, New York, where Coast Guard Women's Reserve (SPARS) had to attend class and pass exams. She was one of only five African-American females to first enlist in the SPARS program. After basic training, Hooker specialized in the yeoman rate and remained at boot camp for an additional nine weeks before heading to Boston.[14] Here, she performed administrative duties and earned the rank of Yeoman Second Class in the Coast Guard Women's Reserve.[9] In June 1946, the SPAR program was disbanded and Hooker earned the rank of petty officer 2nd class and a Good Conduct Award.[14][15]


After receiving her Masters, Hooker moved upstate to work in the mental hygiene department of a women's correctional facility in Albion County.[16] Many women in this facility were considered to have severe learning disabilities by staff. Hooker felt they were more capable than given credit and re-evaluated them and helped the women to pursue better education and jobs. She credited this success with "approaching them with an open mind."[11]

In 1963, she joined Fordham University as a senior clinical lecturer; eventually she served as an associate professor until 1985.[17]

Hooker was one of the founders of the American Psychological Association's (APA) Division 33, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. She served as an early director of the Kennedy Child Study Center in New York City.[16]

Later life and death

Hooker retired at the age of 87.[2] She joined the Coast Guard Auxiliary at age 95[7] and served as a volunteer in Yonkers, New York.[18]

On November 21, 2018, she died of natural causes in her home in White Plains, New York, at the age of 103.[19]


Hooker received the American Psychological Association Presidential Citation in 2011.[13] In 2012, she was inducted into the New York State Senate Veterans' Hall of Fame.[10]

On February 9, 2015, Kirsten Gillibrand spoke in Congress to "pay tribute" to Hooker.[15]

In the same year, the Olivia Hooker Dining Facility on the Staten Island coast guard facility was named in her honor.[7][20] A training facility at the Coast Guard's headquarters in Washington, D.C. was also named after her that same year.[21]

On May 20, 2015, President Barack Obama recognized Hooker's Coast Guard service and legacy while in attendance at the 134th Commencement of the United States Coast Guard Academy.[22]

On November 11, 2018, Google honored her by telling her story as part of a Google Doodle for the Veterans Day holiday.[23]


  1. ^ Thiesen, William H. "SPAR Olivia Hooker: First African American Woman in the Coast Guard" (PDF). United States Coast Guard: U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Retrieved March 17, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c "Coast Guard Names Training Facility After 1st Black Woman In Service". News One. Retrieved March 19, 2015.
  3. ^ MacKay, Jenna (October 19, 2017). "Profile: Olivia Hooker". Psychology's Feminist Voices. Archived from the original on October 19, 2017. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  4. ^ Gay, Mara (February 28, 2015). "Olivia J. Hooker: Coast Guard Pioneer, Fordham Professor and Activist". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  5. ^ Genzlinger, Neil (November 23, 2018). "Olivia Hooker, 103, Dies; Witness to an Ugly Moment in History". The New York Times.
  6. ^ "Black History Month: Survivor Recalls 1921 Tulsa Race Riot". CBS News. February 12, 2015. Retrieved March 17, 2015.
  7. ^ a b c "Dr. Olivia Hooker, 1st Black Woman in U.S. Coast Guard, Honored with Training Facility & Dining Hall Dedications". Good Black News. Retrieved March 19, 2015.
  8. ^ "Meet The Last Surviving Witness To The Tulsa Race Riot Of 1921". National Public Radio. May 31, 2018. Retrieved June 2, 2018.
  9. ^ a b Gay, Mara (February 27, 2015). "Olivia J. Hooker: Coast Guard Pioneer, Fordham Professor and Activist". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved April 30, 2015.
  10. ^ a b Stewart-Cousins, Sen. Andrea (2012). "Dr. Olivia J. Hooker - New York State Senate". New York State Senate. Retrieved March 18, 2015.
  11. ^ a b Miller, Anna (November 2012). "Living history: Pioneering psychologist and civil rights activist Olivia Hooker reflects on her legacy". American Psychological Association. Archived from the original on November 22, 2012. Retrieved April 30, 2015.
  12. ^ Young, LT Stephanie (October 29, 2013). "Olivia Hooker: A SPAR's Story". U.S. Coast Guard. Retrieved March 17, 2015.
  13. ^ a b c MacKay, Jenna (2013). Profile of Olivia Hooker. In A. Rutherford (Ed.), Psychology's Feminist Voices Multimedia Internet Archive. Retrieved on March 18, 2015 from this link.
  14. ^ a b c Young, LT Stephanie (October 29, 2013). "Olivia Hooker: A SPAR's Story". Retrieved April 30, 2015.
  15. ^ a b "Congressional Record, Volume 161 Issue 21 (Monday, February 9, 2015)". Gpo.gov. February 9, 2015. Retrieved March 19, 2015.
  16. ^ a b Cautin, Robin L (April 2012). "The indomitable Dr. Olivia Hooker". The General Psychologist. American Psychological Association. Retrieved April 30, 2015.
  17. ^ Gay, Mara (February 27, 2015). "Olivia J. Hooker: Coast Guard Pioneer, Fordham Professor and Activist". WSJ. Retrieved March 20, 2015.
  18. ^ "US Coast Guard Honors TC Alum and Centenarian Olivia Hooker". Teachers' College Media Center, Columbia University. April 9, 2015. Retrieved April 30, 2015.
  19. ^ "Last survivor of Tulsa Race Massacre dies". KJRH. November 21, 2018. Retrieved November 22, 2018.
  20. ^ "Dr. Olivia Hooker Turns 100 | Juniper Hill Civic Association". Juniperhillny.com. February 7, 2015. Retrieved March 19, 2015.
  21. ^ "Coast Guard Names Training Facility After 1st Black Woman In Service". The Chicago Defender. March 16, 2015. Retrieved April 25, 2015.
  22. ^ "Remarks by the President at the United States Coast Guard Academy Commencement". whitehouse.gov. May 20, 2015. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
  23. ^ Godlewski, Nina (November 11, 2018). "Veterans Day Google Doodle Honors Veterans and their stories through videos". Newsweek. Retrieved November 22, 2018.

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