Richard Leon Hooks died Saturday at Regional Medical Center at age 69. He had been taken ill at his home, two board members said, early that morning.
Associates in the realm of public service spoke admiringly of Hooks’ knowledge of the work and mission of Anniston city schools. It was experience gained ever since his first year with the system — 1963 — as an art teacher at Cobb High School. He later taught art at Anniston High School and he entered administrative work in 1980, which included the principalship of Johnston Elementary.
Holder of a doctorate from the University of Alabama, Hooks in 1993 was a finalist for the job of superintendent. He was elected to the at-large seat on the Anniston Board of Education in 2008 and was nearing the end of his second year as its president.
“It’s going to leave a huge void,” Anniston City Councilman David Dawson said. “He had that ability to make people come together.”
“He was a very dedicated president,” said Superintendent Joan Frazier. “He was always professional and understood public decorum.”
Board member William Hutchings said Hooks “brought knowledge to the board, because of his experience, of where we need to go with this school system.”
The men went through Alabama State University at about the same time and have seen drastic changes in public education since, Hutchings noted.
“We came through the segregation years. We have seen when the schools integrated. We knew both sides,” he said. “He brought so much experience to the Anniston school system because he saw both sides.”
Anniston City Councilman Ben Little praised Hooks for his style of approaching issues. Hooks knew law and procedures, Little said, and “really investigated things before he opened his mouth and talked about things.”
Board member Mary Harrington also spoke of the “first-hand knowledge, intricate knowledge” that Hooks brought to the body. So much of that was internal knowledge, she said, because he had faced so many ongoing issues before.
He also knew how to work with that knowledge to convey his message.
Board member Bill Robison recalled a recent meeting at which an item on the agenda was being discussed and, to get a point across to the rest of the board, Hooks brought out a memo on the subject — a memo he had written 10 years earlier, while he was still working for the school system.
“He was so thorough, whether or not you agreed with the issue, you just had to sit there slack-jawed that he had that depth of remembrance, that depth of organization,” Robison said.
The Anniston City Council is expected to choose a successor to Hooks to serve the remainder of his term, scheduled to end next year.