Bioethics Blogs

Fordham Professor, Coast Guard Pioneer and Civil Rights Activist Dr. Olivia J. Hooker to Receive Recognition following her 100th Birthday

Dr. Olivia J. Hooker during her time in the Coast Guard. Photo from the United States Coast Guard via the Wall Street Journal.

Nationally recognized pioneer in the rights of minority students and retired Fordham University Professor of Psychology Dr. Olivia J. Hooker is a lifelong civil rights activist and the first African American woman to enlist in the Coast Guard. To celebrate her life and 100th birthday, the Coast Guard will name a building on Staten Island in her honor on March 12th.

“I was astonished,” Dr. Hooker told the Wall Street Journal, as she celebrated her birthday Feb. 12 with friends–along with a Coast Guard color guard and a  note from President Barack Obama–at a church near her home in the Westchester County town of Greenburgh. “I never would have expected anything like that to happen.”

Dr. Hooker has both made and witnessed history, as she was present at the 1921 race riots in Tulsa at a girl, which she refers to as “The Catastrophe.” In 1997, she joined with other survivors of the race riots to found the Tulsa Race Riot Commission and was among those who filed a unsuccessful federal lawsuit seeking reparations.

In 1945 and after campaigning with her sorority at Ohio State University for integration, Dr. Hooker became the African American black woman to enlist in the Coast Guard as an act of defiance. She earned the rank of Yeoman, Second Class.

Following her time in the Coast Guard, Dr. Hooker earned a master’s degree in psychology from Teachers College at Columbia University, and then a doctorate from the University of Rochester, where she was one of two African American female students.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.