HOMER HOOKS, 93
Consultant Public Affairs
LAKELAND - Homer Hooks, Lakeland, FL, passed away on June 10, due to heart failure. He was 93. He was a loving father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, a leader in the citrus and phosphate industries, an active member of many civic and cultural organizations, and a true friend to many.
Homer was born on January 10, 1921, in Columbia, SC, and moved to Clermont, FL, in 1925 with his parents. His father, H. Erle Hooks, a grocer and Justice of the Peace was descended from pioneer settlers in Lake County, FL. Homer attended grammar school and high school in Clermont and entered the University of Florida in 1939. He graduated from the University of Florida in 1943 with honors and a degree in journalism. While at Florida he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, the national honorary scholastic society, and to Florida Blue Key's leadership society. In his senior year at Florida he served as the editor of The Florida Alligator, the student newspaper. He was later designated a "Distinguished Alumnus" by the university and served as president of the University of Florida Alumni Association.
Immediately upon graduation he was inducted into the U.S. Army and graduated from The Infantry School in Ft. Benning, GA, as a Second Lieutenant. He was assigned to the 102nd Infantry Division and landed in Normandy, France, in the fall of 1944. He was awarded two Bronze Stars for heroism in battle, the Combat Infantryman's Badge, and the Purple Heart for wounds in combat. In 1951 he was recalled to Army duty as a Captain in Army Intelligence during the Korean War and spent 18 months as a briefing officer for the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, and for Ambassadors from countries with allied troops in Korea.
After the war, he was hired as a reporter for the Tampa Tribune and was assigned to cover the citrus industry in Lakeland. He was later named the first Executive Director of the Canners League of Florida, a trade association of independent citrus processors. After the Korean War he held several management positions in the citrus industry before being named as Executive Director of the Florida Citrus Commission (now the Florida Department of Citrus) in 1957 by Governor LeRoy Collins. He spent the next eight years serving as the "ambassador" for Florida Citrus and is credited for expanding the market for Florida citrus around the country and in Europe. In recognition of his contribution to the Florida citrus industry he was inducted in to the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame in 2013. In 1965, the Florida Phosphate Council, a new trade association of phosphate miners and chemical plant operators, was created and Homer was named its first Executive Director and subsequently later named President. He retired in 1986.
Before and after his retirement Homer was active in many civic and charitable projects. He was chair of the Lakeland United Way and the Florida Cancer Crusade. He chaired the opening of the Lakeland Center and was chair of the Polk Parkway Task Force which opened in 1999. Active in service clubs, he was president of the Lakeland Jaycees, a long-time member of the Lakeland Downtown Rotary Club, and past president of the Lake Wales and Dunedin Rotary clubs. He was appointed by the late Governor Lawton Chiles to the Florida Tax and Budget Reform Commission.
A long-time active supporter of the arts, Homer was an original member of the (Lakeland) Mayor's Creative and Performing Arts Council. He was appointed by the Florida Secretary of State to the Florida Arts Council, where he served as chair. He served on the board of The Florida Orchestra and, for many years, on the boards of the Imperial Symphony Orchestra and the Polk Theatre. He served as a trustee, governor, and president of the Polk Museum of Art, and served four years on the board of the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota. In 1994, he and his late wife, Lois Cowles Harrison, jointly received the Florida Arts Recognition Award from the Florida Secretary of State. In 2003, Lois and Homer were presented with the Polk Museum of Art lifetime Achievement Award and the Harrison-Hooks Lifetime Achievement Award was created to be given annually by the Museum to an extraordinary patron and supporter of the Polk Museum of Art.
Homer was predeceased by his wife, Lois Cowles Harrison, who died June 6, 2013. He is survived by his sons, Hollis Hooks (Debbie), Lakeland, David Hooks (Jan), Chicago, IL, and his daughter Helen Hooks Gohari (Saiid), Tampa; grandchildren, Ryan Hooks (Allison), Smyrna, GA, Emily Hooks, Lakeland, and Hamilton Hooks, Lakeland; great grandchildren, Lily Hooks and Mia Hooks, Smyrna, GA, and Kate Szilvasy, Lakeland; brother, Sydney Hooks (Jean), Orlando, and niece, Susan Salter (Rob), Orlando. He is also survived by his stepchildren Mark Harrison, Grove City, FL, Pat Harrison (Jodi), Sarasota, and Lois E. Harrison, Ridgefield, CT, and step-grandchildren Nick and Brock Reynolds, Chicago, IL.
The family would like to thank the caregivers that took such wonderful care of Homer and Lois: Sharon Addison, Steve Barrington, RN, Diane Eckerson, Shannon Jaris, Roma Stephen, Sherry Vogel and Amanda Westerfeld. The family would also like to express heartfelt gratitude to Lakeland Regional Medical Center, Highlands Lake Rehabilitation Center, and the Good Shepherd Hospice House for the kind and loving care that was provided to Homer at the end of his life.
Services will be held at St. David's Episcopal Church, 145 Edgewood Drive, Lakeland, on Monday, June 16, 2014, at 10:00am with a reception to follow. The family requests, in lieu of flowers, memorials be made to St. David's Episcopal Church, 145 Edgewood Drive, Lakeland, FL, 33803; The Polk Museum, 800 East Palmetto Street, Lakeland, FL, 33801; The Imperial Symphony Orchestra, 1035 South Florida Avenue, Suite 205, Lakeland, FL, 33803 or Planned Parenthood of SW Florida, 736 Central Avenue, Sarasota, FL, 34236.
Condolences may be sent to the family at www.heathfuneralchapel.com
Published in Ledger from June 11 to June 13, 2014