Photographer Henry Hooks Succumbs at 99
By Dianne Anderson
Henry L. Hooks, the Precinct Reporter’s own veteran photojournalist, realized his love of close-ups and Kodachrome back in the Air Force, where he was first handed a “TM 1-219 training manual for photography” and told to shoot.
Spanning decades, Hooks will be remembered for his award-winning portfolio that drove the perspective of the local stories frame by frame. Mr. Hooks passed away last week. He was 99.
He lived his life to capture the moment, but first came his dedication of service to his country.
Upon entering the Air Force, Hooks quickly moved up the military ladder, having made sergeant within the first three months. Within one year, he was stationed in Los Angeles, and later transferred to San Bernardino where he and his wife Opal made their permanent home.
But even following his honorable discharge from the Air Force, Hooks stayed close to military lifestyles while serving 37 years at the Department of Defense, where he was also quickly promoted to AirCraft Mechanic. He excelled from there, first as a Crew Chief, an AirCraft Inspector, and Inspector for Missile Systems, which sent him checking sites throughout the country.
In a prior interview with the Precinct Reporter, Hooks talked about one of his toughest assignments as a military photographer. In 1965, he had top-secret clearance as an investigating officer, a Team Leader and also a snapshooter for missile installations while investigating a Chico missile explosion.
That was a time long before Photoshop, and there were no do-overs. He marveled, even back in the1990s, at how much things had changed within the industry from the old school and dark rooms when he started.
“That was kind of critical,” Hooks had said. “You never get to see [what you shoot]. You just have a Colonel to take you from site to site. You gotta’ do it right the first time.”
Among his historic montage of favorite still images, Hooks has photographed five presidents, including John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, and Vice-President Al Gore, as well then-General Colin Powell, Sugar Ray Robinson, Carry Holmes and George Foreman.
Since his retirement in the late 1970s, Hooks had continued to keep busy at his church, New Hope Missionary Baptist. Hooks also had long-term memberships with the American Legion and the Westside Action Group (WAG). Among his many awards, he received community recognition from the Masonic Lodge, and another from the Rialto Cultural Society. He and his wife Opal were named Senior King and Queen by the San Bernardino Black Culture Foundation.
He was also a seasoned photographer that captured countless hundreds of local dynamic community memories. At each of his exhibitions, people would come out to see if they made the cut. He was an important chronicler of Black life in the inland empire. He covered so many community events that local researchers have clamored for his images. With his ties to the Precinct Reporter, his images recorded local Black History.
“I remember him controlling many a room by handling how pictures would be crafted,” said Precinct Reporter Publisher Brian Townsend. “Once, we covered the NAACP national convention in Los Angeles. In a room full of major media outlets, all of the photographers deferred to him. We got every shot we wanted.” When rapper Tupac Shakur was fighting with former Pennsylvania Secretary of State C. Delores Tucker, she reached out to the Precinct Reporter for access to a photo taken of her by Henry Hooks to show that she was supportive of Black institutions.
Henry Hooks delved into his passion for photography and our community was the beneficiary. Funeral arrangements were not known at press time but will be posted online at www.precinctreporter.com when available.