Honoring living history

Written by Petty Officer 2nd Class Diana Honings

Cmdr. Zeita Merchant greets Dr. Olivia Hooker during a dedication ceremony at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C., June 11, 2015. The Dr. Olivia J. Hooker Training Center was named after the first African-American woman in the Coast Guard. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Cmdr. Zeita Merchant greets Dr. Olivia Hooker during a dedication ceremony at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C., June 11, 2015. The Dr. Olivia J. Hooker Training Center was named after the first African-American woman in the Coast Guard. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

 

Dr. Olivia Hooker has been around a long, long time – 100 years to be exact. She’s been written about countless times, has her own Wikipedia page and even a Facebook fan page. She’s been described as “living history”, phenomenal, indomitable and a feminist.

Now, Hooker even has a section of Coast Guard Headquarters named after her. On the seventh floor of Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C., Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft dedicated a training center within the building in Hooker’s honor today.

“This could be the Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert celebrating Dr. Hooker’s life,” said Zukunft. “But guess what. I’ve got dibs.”

Dr. Olivia Hooker looks over a wall dedicated in her honor during a naming ceremony at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C., June 11, 2015. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Dr. Olivia Hooker looks over a wall dedicated in her honor during a naming ceremony at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C., June 11, 2015. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Hooker was the first African-American woman to enlist in the Coast Guard. In March 1945, after hitting a snag while trying to enlist in the Navy due to her race, Hooker was accepted into the Coast Guard where she served as a yeoman in Boston typing discharge paperwork in the separation center. In June 1946, the Coast Guard’s SPAR program, derived from the Coast Guard’s motto ‘Semper Paratus, Always Ready,’ disbanded and she left the office as a petty officer 2nd class.

After her service in the Coast Guard, Hooker went on to earn her master’s degree in psychological services from Teachers College at Columbia University, and then received her doctorate as a school psychologist from the University of Rochester. She retired at 87 years old.

Followed by the dedication of the Dr. Olivia J. Hooker Training Center, Hooker, an honorary chief, was presented a plaque on behalf of Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Steven Cantrell.

Before the ceremony came to a conclusion, Hooker made a few remarks. She thanked all who stuck by her and helped her survive, and to make sure those who attended the ceremony heard, she twice repeated a Shakespeare quote she lives by, “Love all, trust few, and do right.”

Dr. Olivia Hooker looks over a diverse crowd during a dedication ceremony at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C., June 11, 2015. The ceremony dedicated a section of the building in Hooker's honor. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Dr. Olivia Hooker looks over a diverse crowd during a dedication ceremony at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C., June 11, 2015. The ceremony dedicated a section of the building in Hooker’s honor. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

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