In 1945, Olivia Hooker, a 30-year-old black woman from Tulsa, Oklahoma, joined the U.S. Coast Guard. The now-Dr. Olivia Hooker holds a PhD in psychology, worked until she was 87, and just turned 100 in February. But 70 years ago when she enlisted she became the Coast Guard’s first African-American woman on active duty.
Thursday, Coast Guard brass honored her by naming a dining hall on Staten Island in her honor. But the commandant of the Coast Guard announced that a training center at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C., would also bear the name of this 100-year-old pioneer.
“Oh, this is beyond my wildest dreams. I’d never even imagine,” Dr. Hooker said. “It’s still astonishing to me. I’m so grateful that the sun was shining today and we were able to get here.”
Hooker grew up in a home that Klan members ransacked during the Tulsa race riot of 1921.
Basic training in Manhattan Beach and the duties of a yeoman first class at the Boston separation office where she worked — and from which she later wrote her own separation letter — looked and felt a lot different than Tulsa in 1921 or White Plains, N.Y., in 2005.
“I learned a lot more about people who grew up in different kinds of situations,” she said. “There are many, many more opportunities but there are still more challenges.”
Hooker’s goddaughter Diane Harris and a roomful of Coast Guard leadership traveled to Staten Island for Thursday’s ceremony.
“She doesn’t act like a 100-year-old to me,” Harris said.
“When I try to reach my toes and I can’t quite reach them, then I’m reminded,” Dr. Hooker said.
Five years ago, at age 95, Dr. Hooker joined the Coast Guard Auxiliary, the service’s civilian reserve.
article by Mac King via myfoxny.com