by TaJuan Stout-Mitchell —
A woman of class, beauty and grace, former Memphis City Councilmember Janet Hooks died on Tuesday (October 10). Whenever she walked into a room, she was stunning. But beauty was second or third to her kind and genuine nature and her brilliant brain for business.
Mrs. Hooks was elected to the City Council in November 1991. Educated at Fisk University and Western Kentucky University, she was the President and Chief Appraiser of Janet P. Hooks Company, a real estate appraisal firm and assisted her husband in his business.
Mrs. Hooks had an active career in civic affairs, having served on the board of directors of Girls, Inc., the Memphis Black Arts Alliance, the Memphis Better Schools Committee, the Naegele Headliner Committee, and B.E.L.T.S. She graduated from Leadership Memphis, Class of 1990, and was a member of the Cooper Young Business Association and the Cooper-Parkway Neighborhood Association.
In 1992, Mrs. Hooks was the recipient of the Girls, Inc. Trendsetter Award and was profiled by Grace, Southern Living, and Ebony Magazines.
While on the Memphis City Council, she sponsored a telecommunication franchise ordinance that was subsequently passed by the Council, generating millions of dollars of alternate revenue for the City of Memphis; an ordinance requiring the wearing of seat belts that ultimately saves lives, and co-sponsored public safety legislation ensuring safe crossings at neighborhood schools.
Mrs. Hooks represented an inner-city district that was the recipient of a state-of-the-art community center, a police precinct, revitalized industrial park generating hundreds of new jobs, new schools, and an NBA Sports Complex for inner-city youth.
She advocated for improving the quality of life in neighborhoods by leading the charge to update zoning laws and providing resources for effective code enforcement. She also secured an Environmental Court for the Orange Mound community.
Mrs. Hooks served as chair of the Public Works and Transportation Committee, vice chair of the Parks Committee, and a liaison to the Airport Authority. She also was the chair of the Memphis City Council during her tenure.
Her business savvy and administrative skills led then-Mayor Dr. Willie W. Herenton to appoint her as the Director of Public Services & Neighborhoods Division, which included Center for Neighborhoods, Sexual Assault Resource Center, Animal Shelter, Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board, Emergency Management Agency, Mayo’s Citizen Service Center.
I teased her that every department that had a problem was given to her to reorganize and get into shape. She was successful with each assignment. I was not surprised when the Shelby County Commission called her out of service to assist with the County Clerk’s Office.
With all this recognized service to the community, her greatest achievement to our community was her devotion to her family.
She was married to former Shelby County Commissioner Michael Anthony Hooks, and they had three children: Michael Jr., Kristin Nicole, and Marcus Addison, and a special child as result of a blended family, Tami Sawyer.
Janet Hooks loved family and constantly maneuvered to make sure they were her priority. She traveled annually with her sisters.
She loved cooking and enjoyed reading. I teased her often that she did not have time for a best friend because it was her daughter’s, Kristin, job.
Her husband had two elderly aunts that she has been the caregiver for during the last 10 years or more. She made every effort to see them daily, get them to their doctor appointments, provide household cleaning needs and help them transition into skilled care centers.
Even then, she did not stop caring for them.
With a husband that she loved, kids, grands, a business, and being a care giver, when called into service again by the County Commission to aid the County Clerk’s Office, she did not hesitate to serve.
Janet was proud of all her children and grandchildren. She loved planning family gatherings for them, and though blending families can be a challenge, she weaved her love among each of them and wanted them to always be there for one another. Family was everything to her.
When I learned that my friend and colleague transitioned, I wrote this on Facebook:
“Have you ever had a close friend that you only see two or three times a year, but you picked up the conversation where you left the last time? About once or twice a year, my friend would show up at the house with a nice wine. I would take out cheese, crackers, and grapes. We would talk, laugh, and share about life, family, and city happenings for hours. We were colleagues who grew to be close friends. Once we met for lunch; we left around 6 p.m. gave husbands our leftovers.”
I will miss Janet. This is another tough loss for Memphis.
Please lift this family in your prayers. Their Queen left her essence in our hearts.
Arrangements have been entrusted to Serenity Funeral Home.