Hooker in 2011
Olivia Juliette Hooker
(1915-02-12)February 12, 1915
Muskogee, Oklahoma, U.S.
|Died||November 21, 2018(2018-11-21) (aged 103)
White Plains, New York, U.S.
|Education||Ohio State University (BA)
Columbia University (MA)
University of Rochester (PhD)
||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. 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.
Early life and education
Hooker was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, to Samuel Hooker and Anita Hooker (née Stigger). During the Tulsa race riots of 1921, Ku Klux Klan members ransacked her home while she hid under a table with her three siblings. She later was a founder of the Tulsa Race Riot Commission in hopes of demanding reparations for the riot's survivors. In 2003, she was among survivors of the riot to file an unsuccessful federal lawsuit seeking reparations.
After the riots, her family moved to Columbus, Ohio, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in 1937 from The Ohio State University. 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. In 1947, she received her Masters from the Teachers College of Columbia University, and in 1961 she received her PhD in psychology from the University of Rochester.
U.S. Coast Guard
Hooker applied to the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) of the U.S. Navy, but was rejected due to her ethnicity. She disputed the rejection due to a technicality and was accepted. However, she had already decided to join the Coast Guard. 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. Here, she performed administrative duties and earned the rank of Yeoman Second Class in the Coast Guard Women's Reserve. In June 1946, the SPAR program was disbanded and Hooker earned the rank of petty officer 2nd class and a Good Conduct Award.
After receiving her Masters, Hooker moved upstate to work in the mental hygiene department of a women's correctional facility in Albion County. 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."
In 1963, she joined Fordham University as a senior clinical lecturer; eventually she served as an associate professor until 1985.
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.
Later life and death
In the same year, the Olivia Hooker Dining Facility on the Staten Island coast guard facility was named in her honor. A training facility at the Coast Guard's headquarters in Washington, D.C. was also named after her that same year.
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