WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Funeral services were held for the first African-American woman to serve in the U.S. Coast Guard. She was also the last known survivor of the Tulsa Race Riot.
Dr. Olivia Juliette Hooker was born on Feb. 12, 1915, in Muskogee, Okla. and passed away on Nov. 21, in White Plains, N.Y., at the age of 103.
She enlisted in the Coast Guard Woman’s Reserve, also known as “Semper Paratus, Always Ready” (SPARs), in February 1945. Upon graduation from basic training, she specialized in the yeoman rating, spending her time stationed at the separation center in Boston.
Over time, she rose to the rank of yeoman second class prior to her discharge in June 1946. She later joined the Coast Guard Auxiliary in 2010, volunteering in Flotilla 06-08 in Yonkers, N.Y.
After completing her military service, Dr. Hooker went on to earn a master’s degree in psychology from Columbia University and a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Rochester. In the early 1960s, she began a career as a psychologist and a professor of psychology at New York’s Fordham University. In 2002, she retired at the age of 87 after a distinguished career in education and mental health care.
Throughout her life, Dr. Hooker was an advocate for Americans with developmental and intellectual disabilities, as well as a leader in various civic, community, cultural, and educational organizations, including the NAACP.
Before joining the U.S. Coast Guard, at just six years old, her entire neighborhood was decimated in chaos.
The Greenwood District in Tulsa, Oklahoma was once called the “Black Wall Street,” a 35-block radius in the segregated community thriving with hundreds of businesses.
But, on June 1, 1921, the entire area was burned down as a result of a riot that began after a black man was accused of assaulting a white woman.
White residents attacked the community, killing hundreds of black residents and injuring 800 others.
According to NPR, Hooker’s mother hid her and her three siblings under the dining room table as a group of white men came through their backyard with torches.
The men ended up destroying everything of value inside the family’s home.
After the Tulsa Race Riot, Hooker’s family moved away from Oklahoma.
Her funeral service was held at White Plains Rural Cemetery in White Plains, New York on Tuesday.