As an entrepreneur, executive, sportsman, family man and friend, Henry Williamson Hooker left a legacy of vision, enthusiasm and warmth. He passed away at home following a long illness on Monday, April 24, 2014. Mr. Hooker was born in Nashville on April 14, 1933, to the late civic leader Darthula Williamson June and the late John Jay Hooker Sr. a prominent Nashville attorney.

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Image courtesy of the Tennessean.

He was also preceded in death by his sister, Alice Kirby Hooker “Teenie” Buchtel, and brother, John Jay Hooker Jr.

He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Alice Ingram Hooker; sons Bradford Williamson Hooker (Jamie Ball) of Gloucestershire, England and Timothy Ingram Hooker of Wellington, Fla.; daughter Lisa Hooker Campbell (John Palmer Campbell III) of Nashville; grandchildren Henry Williamson Hooker II, Alexander Guy Hooker, Lily Marie Robertson, Alice Hooker Campbell, Eileen Campbell Hart (Christopher Forbes Hart), John Palmer Campbell IV, Charles Ingram Hooker and Heather Louise Hooker; uncle, Henry Bradford Williamson III of Dayton, Ohio; and numerous beloved nieces and nephews.

Over the years, Mr. Hooker received many accolades. Two particularly noteworthy awards pertained to his business and sports contributions. Nashville Magazine honored him as a Nashvillian having the greatest impact on the city from 1965-1985. And in 2015, he and his wife were inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame for helping elevate the Iroquois Steeplechase from a unique sporting event into a spectacular citywide fundraiser for what is now the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. The couple initiated the fundraising union between the Volunteer State Horsemen’s Association and its Iroquois Steeplechase and the hospital. The 27-year alliance that the Hookers oversaw raised more than $8 million for the medical institution.

A Nashville native, Mr. Hooker attended Montgomery Bell Academy, the Choate School in Connecticut and the Graham Eckes School in Florida, where he was valedictorian. After just three years of high school, he entered Vanderbilt University, earning his philosophy degree in 1954. One extremely impactful year of that coursework took place at Queens College, Oxford, England. Following two years of U.S. Army service, Mr. Hooker enrolled in Tulane Law School, excelling academically. He was a finalist at Moot Court Nationals, editor of the Tulane Law Review and elected to the Order of the Coif. After completing his law degree, he and his wife moved to Nashville to raise their family. Mr. Hooker remained devoted to education and later enjoyed serving on the boards of Fisk University, Montgomery Bell Academy and the Ensworth School in Nashville.

In 1960 he joined Hooker & Hooker law firm in Nashville. In addition to a successful legal practice, he was active in business ventures, including Hospital Corporation of America, as a founder; Lin Broadcasting Corp., as a founder and director; DSI Inc., as a founder; and Minnie Pearl Fried Chicken, as a founder and board chairman. In 1971 Mr. Hooker moved to New York as vice president of corporate development for Studebaker-Worthington Inc., thus initiating his career in the oil and gas business. He returned to Nashville in 1975 as board chairman and majority owner of Oil Recovery Corporation of America (ORCA). In demand as a business advisor, he served as a director of numerous corporations including STP Corp and Susquehanna Corp. From 1966-1976, Mr. Hooker was closely associated with his brother, serving as his law partner, business partner in Minnie Pearl Chicken and campaign director in two statewide political contests. The brothers were progressives, particularly championing equal rights for African-Americans.

In leisure, Mr. Hooker adored sociable sports and games, namely tennis and foxhunting. A gifted athlete, he was a member of the Vanderbilt tennis team and rowed for his Queen’s College at Oxford University. He later constructed an indoor tennis court at his home, Hunting Hollow, and – until a foxhunting accident at age 37 – had a winning serve. Injuries aside, he played and rode into his 70s. Mr. Hooker relished the romance and thrills of foxhunting on horseback across Middle Tennessee pastures. When he and his wife returned to Nashville from New Orleans, they were invited to join the Hillsboro Hounds foxhunting association. Mr. Hooker was given his first hounds in 1963. By 1975, he had begun a long career as Master of foxhounds for the Hillsboro Hounds, and he worked tirelessly over five decades to see it flourish. He eventually became a director of the Masters of Foxhounds Association of America.

He was a formidable writer on the subject. His sporting memoir, "Fox, Fin & Feather" was published in 2002 by the prestigious Derrydale Press and his essays appeared in esteemed periodicals including the Chronicle of the Horse. His poem, “The Gamest Fox,” even appeared in Fred Russell’s sports column in The Nashville Banner.

Mr. Hooker was chairman of the Iroquois Steeplechase Race Committee for 17 years. He also served as chairman of the National Steeplechase Association. He owned numerous award-winning horses, including Terossain, who competed in the Grand National Steeplechase in Liverpool, England and Spin the Top, who won many steeplechase races, which included the Frost Brush Race at the Iroquois. In 1980, Mr. and Mrs. Hooker envisioned transforming Nashville’s Iroquois Steeplechase – founded in 1941 by the Hillsboro Hounds – into an updated and competitive premier event benefitting Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. At that time, Mr. Hooker was secretary of the Volunteer State Horsemen's Association, which put on the race. Mrs. Hooker chaired the Children's Hospital board. The two brought about the "marriage" of the Horsemen and the Friends of Children’s Hospital, rendering the hospital the beneficiary of the Steeplechase’s largess. Children’s Hospital volunteers became an efficient corps driving community interest and handling the vibrant social side of the event. The foxhunters managed the race and logistics.

Organizers dedicated the 1985 Iroquois Steeplechase to Mr. Hooker when he stepped down as race chairman.  Later, the Friends of the Children’s Hospital Committee honored the couple by the establishment of a charity fund named “Alice and Henry Hooker Endowment Fund” for the benefit of Monroe Carell, Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

Visitation with the family is scheduled for Thursday, April 27 at Hunting Hollow from 3 – 7 p.m. Funeral services will be held at First Presbyterian Church of Nashville on Friday, April 28, 2017 at 11:00 a.m., with burial immediately following the service at Mount Olivet Cemetery. Honorary Pallbearers are: William F. Andrews, Edward S. Bonnie, William H. Cammack, Harold J. Castner, Brownlee O. Currey Jr., Harland Dodson, John Gray, H. Rodes Hart Sr., David Kendall, Robert W. Kitchell, Mason H. Lampton, H. Hill McAlister V, The Honorable Gilbert S. Merritt, Marvin J. Nischan, William Puryear, John Michael Seigenthaler, James R. Stadler, Lemuel Stevens Jr., Robert Tuke, Johnson B. Wallace.

The family would like to extend sincere gratitude to the dedicated caregivers and staff at Hunting Hollow for their care of Mr. Hooker.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Alive Hospice, Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, The Ensworth School, Cheekwood or the Alice and Henry Hooker Fund at VUMC, 2525 West End Ave., Suite 450, Nashville, TN  37203.

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