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Mary Butler Hooks

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MARY BUTLER HOOKS ‘Opening of the Door to Life Evermore' “I met God in the morning, when my day was at its best,And his present come like sunrise, like a glory in my breast.All day long the presence lingered, all day long he stayed with me,And we sailed in perfect calmness, o'er a very troubled sea.” - Unknown As many of us rose to begin our day, Thursday morning, March 4, 2004, Mary Butler Hooks, faithfully prayed, “Thy will be done” and in the twinkling of an eye, drifted into a place where her soul is safe and free. Mary was the oldest child born to Velvet Butler and Richard Butler on July 4, 1949, in Coahoma County, Mississippi. She received early education in the Memphis, Tennessee school system where she graduated from Lester High School. After high school, she enrolled into Lincoln University, Jefferson City, Missouri, where her matrimonial voyage had its inception upon meeting her husband, Lee Allen Hooks of West Palm Beach. Several years after Mary's and Lee's union of love and marriage, a son, Brandon Allen was born. Other than her husband, son and parents, Mary is survived by siblings and relatives who include Mary's brother, George Edward Butler; her sister, Wanda Butler Brown; a brother who predeceased her, Richard Butler, Jr. (Esther); two nieces, LaShawn Brown Jeter (Eric) and Felicia Butler; and her stepmother, Mary Butler, all of Memphis, Tennessee; an aunt, Laura Townsend Dampier of Chicago, Illinois; and a host of cousins, godchildren and other relatives and friends. Mary was one of those rare human beings whose extraordinary desire to make a difference was always tempered by her warm sense of humanity. She neither looked up to the rich nor down on the poor, so her friends were among the poor as well as the powerful. Her first employment was as a program manager and counselor with the Drug Abuse Treatment Association in Palm Beach County. After working 14 years with the association, Mary set her sites on being an entrepreneur in the West Palm Beach community. She began working as a special agent for Prudential Insurance and Financial Services. While with Prudential, she continued her education, attending Nova and Barry Universities, graduated from the Hilda Tucker School of Insurance after completing courses in property and casualty and life insurance, the insurance institute of Purdue University, Lafayette, Indiana, and obtained her Series 6 license from the National Association of Security Dealers and LUTCF designation as a Life Underwriters Training Council Fellow. After working with Prudential for seven years, Mary became an entrepreneur opening her business, M.B. Hooks and Associates Insurance Agency, specializing in life, group, health, disability and annuities. While working in the insurance industry, she served as President of the Palm Beach Association of Life Underwriters, and in 1992 was presented with its Public Service Award for outstanding community service. As a public servant, Mary was first elected to the City Commission of the City of West Palm Beach in March 1993 and served until 1999. While on the city commission, she served as its President for two terms, chair of the City's Internal Auditing Committee, a member of the Board of Commissioners West Palm Beach Community Redevelopment Agency, and a member of the Palm Beach County Commission on Affordable Housing, Film and Television Commission, Tourist Development Board and Health and Human Services Planning Board. Mary's tenure as a member of the City Commission was marked by a period of intense restoration and renovation of the city, which included the private/public development of CityPlace, launching the city into national prominence and earning it a reputation as one of America's best medium sized cities. She was a leading force in establishing the city's Minority Business Enterprise program, which assists culturally diverse and women- owned businesses to apply and qualify for contracts with the City of West Palm Beach. Mary served at the helm of a $700,000 capital campaign for the construction of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Landmark Memorial located on the waterfront in the city. It is the most impressive tribute to be found in honor of Dr. King south of Atlanta, Georgia. In 1999, Governor Jeb Bush appointed Mary as the Secretary of Florida Department of Labor and Employment Security. As the Secretary, she had oversight of over 7000 employees statewide and a budget of greater than two billion dollars. Mary lead the department for three years, overseeing the transition of programs and employees to other agencies or departments of the state. During her tenure as Secretary, she served on the Boards of Workforce Florida, Inc., and Enterprise Florida and the Florida Council of 100. After the dissolution of the Department of Labor and Employment Security in 2002, Mary's last career days were spent as the Governor's Liaison with the Agency for Workforce Innovation, developing partnerships with organizations and communities throughout the State of Florida, for the delivery of governmental services. Other community services organizations which Mary was a member of consisted of being a founding member of the Coalition of 100 Black Women in Palm Beach County, serving as its treasurer, the Continental Societies, Inc., the Executive Women of the Palm Beaches, the Women's Chamber of Commerce of Palm Beach County, the Board of Directors of the Forum Club of Palm Beach County and a graduate of Leadership Palm Beach County and Leadership America. Throughout her life, Mary received numerous awards and honors including the Women's Chamber of Commerce Women's History Month 2000 Giraffe Award for women who have “stuck their necks out”; the 2000 African American Achievers Award for Government from JM Family Enterprises and Southeast Toyota Distributors; the 1999 Women in Power Award by the Women's Business Journal; a Women of Distinction Award by the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, South Florida Chapter; the 1990 women in Power Award from the Women's Business Journal; the 1999 Unsung Hero Award presented by Trinity United Methodist Church; a 1996 Outstanding Leadership Award from Simpson Memorial Church; a 1996 Outstanding Service to God and Community Award from Payne Chapel AME Church; a 1995 President's Award from Leadership Palm Beach County; a 1998 Women of the Year Award from St. Ann's Catholic School; a 1994 National Hall of Fame for Service, Dedication and Service to Youth from the Continental Societies, lnc.; a 1993 Women Who Make A Difference Award from the National Minorities and Women in Business Magazine; and a 1995 Outstanding Citizen Award from Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. For the year 2004, she was the Honorary Chair of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Race for the Cure. The family will receive friends on Wednesday, March 10, 2004 from 5-8 PM at Trinity United Methodist Church, 1401 9th St., West Palm Beach. Funeral Services will be held Thursday, March 11, 2004 at 1PM at United Methodist Church of the Palm Beaches, 900 Brandywine Road. Funeral Arrangements entrusted to Royal Palm Funeral Home.
Published in The Palm Beach Post from Mar. 4 to Mar. 9, 2004
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