Coast Guard honors Dr. Olivia Hooker

Dr. Olivia Hooker gives her personal account of the of the historic 1921 Tulsa race riots, at a briefing before members of the Congressional Black Caucus and other leaders on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, May 10, 2005, in Washington.
Associated Press / Manuel Balce Ceneta, File

The United States Coast Guard says a ceremony was held at Coast Guard Sector New York in Staten Island last Thursday to officially rename the Sector New York Galley in honor of centenarian Dr. Olivia Hooker, who holds the distinction of being the first African-American woman admitted into the U.S. Coast Guard.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft presided over the ceremony and unveiled the plaque that hangs in the galley in honor of Dr. Hooker.

Rear Adm. Linda Fagan, Coast Guard 1st District commander, retired Rear Adm. Stephen Rochon, and Capt. Gordon Loebl, commander, Coast Guard Sector New York were also members of the official party during the ceremony, according to the Coast Guard.

Dr. Hooker earned her bachelor’s degree from Ohio State University and taught third grade before enlisting in the service in 1945 as a SPAR (Semper Paratus, Always Ready), the acronym used for Coast Guard female service personnel during World War II.

“She initially tried to enlist in the Navy as a WAVE, but they would not admit her due to her race,” the Coast Guard said.

It said Dr. Hooker “served dutifully earning numerous awards for her skills” while working in the Boston Coast Guard station.

In June 1946, the SPAR program disbanded, and Dr. Hooker earned the rank of Petty Officer 2nd Class.

Following her Coast Guard enlistment, Dr. Hooker went on to earn a master’s degree in Psychological Services from Teachers College at Columbia University and a doctoral degree from the University of Rochester.

The Coast Guard said the ceremony was standing-room-only, “which highlighted her impact on the Coast Guard, her students, peers, and the African-American community at large.”

“I’ve never met anyone like her. She remains open and unafraid of what life will bring,” said Rear Adm. Linda Fagan, commander, First Coast Guard District. “She draws people in with grace and sincerity.”

The Coast Guard said Dr. Hooker continued to work as a professor in New York, where she finally retired at the age of 87.

She is currently serving as a volunteer in the Coast Guard Auxiliary, Flotilla 06-08 in Yonkers, New York.

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