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Robert Hooks (born Bobby Dean Hooks, April 18, 1937) is an African-American actor, producer, and activist.[1] He is most recognizable to the public for his over 100 roles in films, television, and stage. Hooks has been regarded, variously, as a gifted artist who broke the color barriers in stage, film and television before the term "colorblind casting" even existed, and a leading man when there were no African American matinee idols.

Robert Hooks
Robert Hooks.jpg
Bobby Dean Hooks

(1937-04-18) April 18, 1937 (age 82)
Washington, D.C., United States
Other namesRobert Hooks
Creator Cultural Institutions
Creator/Co-creator Civil Right Organizations
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Lorrie Marlow (aka LorrieGay Marlow) (m.2008)
ChildrenKevin Hooks, Eric Hooks, Cecilia Onibudo, Christopher Carter (née Hooks), Kiyo Tarpley, Robert (Rob) Hooks, Jr.
Parent(s)Mae Bertha "Bert" Ward Hooks (9/27/11 – 12/27/78); Edward Hooks (d. 1939)
WebsiteRobert Hooks
Robert Hooks - Cultural Architect Facebook



Early lifeEdit

The youngest of five children, Hooks was born in Foggy Bottom, Washington, D.C. to Mae Bertha (née Ward), a seamstress, and Edward Hooks who had moved from Rocky Mount, North Carolina with their four other children: Bernice (1929-5/12/ 1975), Caroleigh (1930-10/22, 1985), Charles Edward "Charlie", (06/23/63-11/ 27/1965), and James Walter "Jimmy" (12/10/1934-5/1/2018). Bobby Dean was their first "up-north" baby and the first to be born in a hospital. His father Edward died in a work accident on the railroad in 1939.

Hooks attended Stevens Elementary School. In 1945, at the insistence of his sister Bernice who was doing community arts outreach for youngsters at Francis Junior High School, he performed the lead in his first play, The Pirates of Penzance, at the age of nine. From the ages of 6 to 12, Bobby Dean journeyed with his siblings to Lucama, North Carolina to work the tobacco fields for his uncle's sharecropping farm as a way to help earn money for the coming school year in DC.

In 1954, just as Brown vs. Board of Education was going into effect up north, he moved to Philadelphia to be with his mom and her second husband (he has a half-sister Safia Abdullah [née Sharon Dickerson] from his mother's 1951 remarriage) and experienced his first integrated school experience at West Philadelphia High School. Hooks soon joined the drama club and began acting in plays by such authors as William Shakespeare and Samuel Beckett. He graduated in 1956, passing on a scholarship to Temple University in order to pursue his craft at The Bessie V. Hicks School of Theatre (alongside fellow students Charles Dierkop and Bruce Dern with whom he second-acted plays doing their pre-Broadway tryouts in Philadelphia) while working at Browning King, a men's tailor shop at 14th and Chestnut streets.[2][3]

Acting careerEdit

Having trained at The Bessie V. Smith School of Theatre in Philadelphia, and after seeing "A Raising in the Sun" in its Philadelphia tryout in February 1959, Hooks moved to New York to pursue acting. In April 1960, as Bobby Dean Hooks, he made his Broadway debut in "A Raisin in the Sun" replacing Louis Gossett, Jr. who would be doing the film version. He then continued to do its national tour. He then stepped into the Broadway production of "A Taste of Honey", replacing Billy Dee Williams; then repeating the same national tour trajectory as he'd done for "Raisin..." the previous year. In early 1962 he next appeared as the lead in Jean Genet's "The Blacks" replacing James Earl Jones as the male lead, leaving briefly that same year to appear on Broadway again in "Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright before stepping back into the lead role in "The Blacks" in 1963. He then returned to Broadway, first in "Ballad for Bimshire" and then in the short-lived 1964 David Merrick revival of "The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Any More" (as a character created by Tennessee Williams for this revival) and starring Tallulah Bankhead and Tab Hunter in his only stage performance. Immediately thereafter, in March 24, 1964 he originated the role of Clay in Amiri Baraka's Dutchman. With this play, on the advice of Roscoe Lee Brown, Hooks became known as Robert Hooks. He also originated roles on the New York stage inWhere's Daddy? for which he won the Theatre World Award and he was nominated for Best Male Lead in a Musical for "Hallelujah Baby" while he was simultaneously starring in David Susskind's N.Y.P.D.—the first African American lead on a television drama.

In 1968 Hooks was the host of the new public affairs television program, Like It Is.[4]

Most famously, Hooks, along with Douglas Turner Ward, founded The Negro Ensemble Company (NEC).[5] He then brought Gerald Krone in as Production Manager. The NEC is credited with the launch of the careers of many major black artists of all disciplines, while creating a body of performance literature over the last thirty years, providing the backbone of African-American theatrical classics. Additionally, Hooks is the sole founder of two significant black theatre companies: the D.C. Black Repertory Company, and New York's Group Theatre Workshop, built to mentor the talents of New York's disadvantaged youth. He soon brought in Dr. Barbara Ann Teer to teach classes and develop the workshop.[6]

Hooks was nominated for a Tony for his lead role in the musical, Hallelujah, Baby!, has received both the Pioneer Award and the NAACP Image Award for Lifetime Achievement, and has been inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame. He also won an Emmy for his PBS special Voices of Our People.

Significant roles for which Hooks is known include Reeve Scott in Hurry Sundown (1967), Mr. T. in the blaxploitation film Trouble Man (1972), grandpa Gene Donovan in the comedy Seventeen Again (2000), and Fleet Admiral Morrow in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984). He also appeared on television in an episode of the NBC crime drama series The Eddie Capra Mysteries in 1978 and portrayed Doctor Walcott in the 1980s television series Dynasty.


Arts and cultureEdit

The Group Theatre Workshop (GTW, 1964): Founder. A performing troupe and tuition free training program for Manhattan teens. Alumni include Antonio Fargas and Hattie Winston (New York City).[7]

The Negro Ensemble Company (NEC, 1967): Co-Founder (along with Douglas Turner Ward and Gerald S. Krone) & Executive Director/Producer. The Group Theatre Workshop was folded into the training arm of the NEC (New York City).[8]

The Black Academy of Arts and Letters (BAAL, 1969–1972): An original Board Member, alongside C. Eric Lincoln, President; John O. Killens, Alvin F. Poussaint and Charles White. Chartered by the State of New York, BAAL was created to bring together Black artists and scholars from all over the world. Additional members included: Julian Adderley, Alvin Ailey, Margaret Walker, James Baldwin, Imamu Baraka, Romare Bearden, Harry Belafonte, Lerone Bennett, Arna Bontemps, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee Davis, St. Clair Drake, Ernest Dunbar, Katherine Dunham, Lonne Elder III, Duke Ellington, Alex Haley, Ruth Inge Hardison, Vertis Hayes, Chester Himes, Lena Horne, Jacob Lawrence, Elma Lewis, Henry Lewis, Paule Marshall, Donald McKayle, Arthur Mitchell, Frederick O’Neal, Gordon Parks, Sidney Poitier, Benjamin Quarles, Lloyd Richards, Lucille D. Roberts and Nina Simone. (New York City)[9]

The D.C. Black Repertory Company (DCBRC, 1970): Founder/Executive Director. Created in response to the violence in the wake of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination, and aided by a small grant from the Eugene and Agnes Meyer Foundation. Hooks took a leave of absence from the Negro Ensemble Company to continue his exploration of the ability of the arts to this case, a city to create the DCBRC. Interesting aside: The a capella group Sweet Honey in the Rock was created and developed within its workshop process. (Washington, DC)[10]

The Inner Voices (Lorton Prison-arts training program-1971): Structured this first prison-based arts program in the United States in response to a plea from an inmate, Rhozier "Roach" Brown, who was serving a life sentence in Lorton. Eventually Inner Voices performed over 500 times in other prisons, including a Christmas special titled, "Holidays, Hollowdays." Due to Roach's work, Pres. Gerald Ford commuted his sentence on Christmas Day, 1975. (Washington, DC)[11]

The Bay Area Multicultural Arts Initiative (1988): Board member and grant facilitator/judge. Its purpose was the funding of local multicultural arts organizations and was funded by monies from a unique coalition made up of the San Francisco Foundation, a community foundation; Grants for the Arts of the San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund, and The National Endowment for the Arts.

Arts in Action (1992): Founder with writer Lonne Elder III. A South Central Los Angeles film and television training center established to guide individuals who wanted to start careers in film production, it formulated strategies for securing entry-level jobs. Courses included: career development workshops; pre-production and production for film and television; creative problem solving in production management; directing for stage and screen-principles and practices; also the craft of assistant directors, script supervisor, technicians, wardrobe, make-up etc.

The Negro Ensemble Company of Los Angeles (NEC-LA) (1994): Founder, Executive Director. With alumni from his New York Negro Ensemble Company serving as Board Members: Denise Nicholas, Denzel Washington, James Earl Jones, Laurence Fishburne, Richard Roundtree, Samuel L. Jackson, NEC-LA's goal was to be a new and innovative multi-ethnic cultural project seeking to achieve the community effectiveness and professional success of its parent organization.

Civil rightsEdit

First American Congress of Theatre (FACT, 1974): On the ad hoc steering committee at the invitation of Alexander H. Cohen, Chairman of the National Academy of The Living Theatre Foundation. Its mission was to diagnose the problems facing the theatre and suggest remedies. The first convening sessions were held on the campus of Princeton University on June 2, 1974. Professional theatre directors, representatives of government, foundations, arts councils and corporations who had demonstrated concern for the welfare of the American Theatre, were present to observe the proceedings.[12]

The Media Forum (1979, Los Angeles): Created by Robert Hooks, Brock Peters, Denise Nicholas, as well as producer Chas. Floyd Johnson. An entertainment industry advocacy organization, in coalition form, set up to research data concerning Black images, employment and ownership for Black artists and business professionals and to challenge established industry leaders to unite in order to level the playing field and create more opportunities and parity for underrepresented members of the Hollywood media family; also dedicated to combating negative stereotypes in film and television. In 1981, the group produced Voices of Our People: In Celebration of Black Poetry, which aired on KCET, won local Emmys in the Producing and Performance (Janet MacLachlan) categories. One of Media Forum's most influential and change-making sessions, held at the Mark Taper Forum, was with Charles D. Ferris, Chairman of the FCC.

National Alliance for Black Advancement in Communications (NABAC, 1983): Founder and Chairman. With Brock Peters, Alex Haley, Sidney Poitier, Shirley Chisholm, Muhammad Ali, Don Cornelius, Dr. Nathan Hare, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee among others. A viewer advocacy organization in the tradition of Ralph Nader’s consumer advocacy program, it spoke to the need for heightened Black participation in the entertainment industry, from creative control to craft and technical positions. Participation intended to impact the images perpetuated by the media.[13]

Black Media and Entertainment Group (1993): Founder with John Mack, Beverly Todd, Larkin Arnold, Artis Lane and others, this was an assemblage of artists and industry business professionals established to advocate for fairness in the entertainment industry for minority artists, both fledgling and established. An offshoot of this group was a performance ensemble.

Personal lifeEdit

Hooks is the father of actor, television and film director Kevin Hooks. He married Lorrie Gay Marlow[14] (Actor/Author/Artist) on June 15, 2008. He was previously married to Yvonne Hickman and Rosie Lee Hooks.[15]

Acting CreditsEdit




  1. ^ "Lorrie Marlow and Robert Hooks". The New York Times. June 15, 2008.
  2. ^ "Robert Hooks - The HistoryMakers". Retrieved 31 October 2018.
  3. ^ "Robert Hooks Biography (1937–)". Retrieved 10 September 2017.
  4. ^ "Gil Noble: Visionary Videos: NVLP: African American History". Retrieved 10 September 2017.
  5. ^ "American Masters: Negro Ensemble Company". Public Broadcasting Service. Retrieved 2007-04-28.
  6. ^ Hill, Anthony D.; Barnett, Douglas Q. (4 December 2008). "Historical Dictionary of African American Theater". Scarecrow Press. Retrieved 10 September 2017 – via Google Books.
  7. ^ "Robert Hooks Waxes Lyrical About the 50-Year Anniversary of the Negro Ensemble Company ‹ @ This Stage". Retrieved 11 November 2018.
  8. ^ " - Negro Ensemble Company records". Retrieved 11 November 2018.
  9. ^ " - Black Academy of Arts and Letters records". Retrieved 11 November 2018.
  10. ^ "Robert Hooks Waxes Lyrical About the 50-Year Anniversary of the Negro Ensemble Company ‹ @ This Stage". Retrieved 11 November 2018.
  11. ^ "'ROACH' BROWN A DRAMATIC RISE BROUGHT DOWN BY DRUGS". Washington Post. 15 November 1987. Retrieved 11 November 2018.
  12. ^ "Conditions and Needs of the Professional American Theatre" (PDF). National Endowment for the Arts. Retrieved 11 November 2018.
  13. ^ "Financial interest and syndication rules: hearings before the Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Consumer Protection, and Finance of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, House of Representatives, Ninety-eighth Congress, first session, on H.R. 2250 ... June 1 and August 1, 1983". 1984. Retrieved 11 November 2018.
  14. ^ "Lorrie Marlow". IMDb. Retrieved 11 November 2018.
  15. ^ "Robert Hooks". IMDb. Retrieved 11 November 2018.

External linksEdit