MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Janet Hooks, former Memphis City Councilwoman, died Tuesday at age 70, according to a family statement sent out overnight.

Janet Hooks (photo courtesy: Tami Sawyer)

Hooks served for 16 years on the Memphis City Council, then served as director of parks and neighborhoods for the city. Earlier this year, she was appointed by the county commission as special advisor to the Shelby County Clerk.

She was highly esteemed for her steadfast dedication and extensive period of service to the city of Memphis, which garnered her great respect and admiration. We are eternally grateful for her 16 years of serviceon the Memphis City Council in District 4,” said the Memphis City Council in a statement Wednesday. “She exemplified leadership, virtue, and grace throughout her tenure on the Memphis City Council and in various other capacities. Her contributions to our communities were invaluable, and her absence will be deeply felt. As we convene to commemorate and honor the extraordinary life of Janet Hooks, we must also recognize her significant influence on our city. Memphis has lost a genuine advocate, and her legacy will be forever treasured. During this period of mourning, our sentiments and supplications are with her family, and the Memphis City Council joins our city in lamenting the passing of such an exceptional woman.”

One of her friends, TaJuan Stout Mitchell, says she was more than a city councilwoman, she was a friend.

“She was a good councilwoman, she was a skillful administrator, she loved cooking, she loved traveling, but her best gift to Memphis was the love she poured into her children,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell says she met Hooks and their other friend Barbara Swearingen Ware in 1999.

“Work becomes a major part of your life but when you are fortunate enough to work and then like the people you work with and they become endearing friends, you know you got something special,” Mitchell said. “And with Janet Hooks and Barbara Swearingen Ware – we all became close friends.”

Unfortunately, in 2021, Swearingen Ware passed away from “a brief illness”.

“She could study an issue read the issues listen to the citizens and find a way to compromise or make hard decisions,” Mitchell said. “I will miss Janet showing up at my house with a bottle of wine and we would sit right here and I would pull out the cheese and crackers and grapes and just talk for hours.”

Another one of her friends, Brent Taylor, says, “She made me feel like a part of the team and I’ll miss her dearly.”

Hooks leaves behind her husband, former county commission chairman and county assessor Michael Hooks Sr.; a daughter, Kristin Hooks; two sons, Michael Hooks, Jr., and Marcus Hooks; a daughter-in-law, Judge Kenya Hooks; and two granddaughters, Morgan and Miranda Hooks; and special second daughter, Tami Sawyer.

“Janet was beloved by her family, friends, and community. She was a skilled cook and avid reader,” family said. 

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“For me, Janet Hooks was one of those people that you loved seeing because she would always greet you with a genuine warm embrace and her infectious smile,” said state Rep. Antonio Parkinson on X. “She watched and helped to guide me through my days of serving at the Memphis and Shelby County Music Commission, and I am grateful to her for that and her many more acts of selflessness. We sadly mourn the loss of this amazing, smart, and beautiful woman. Rest in peace, Janet Hooks.”

Memphis City Council member Patrice Robinson also expressed her condolences in the following statement:

“I, Councilwoman Patrice J. Robinson, extend my deepest condolences to the family and friends of former Councilwoman Janet Hooks. Janet was a dedicated public servant who left an indelible mark on our city’s history with her unwavering commitment to the betterment of Memphis and tireless advocacy for her community’s needs. She epitomized leadership, integrity, and compassion throughout her time on the Memphis City Council and in various other roles. Her contributions to our communities were immeasurable, and her presence will be tremendously missed. As we gather to remember and celebrate Janet Hooks’ remarkable life, we must also acknowledge her profound impact on our city. Memphis has lost a true champion, and her memory will forever be cherished. In this time of grief, my thoughts and prayers are with her family, and I join our city in mourning the loss of such a phenomenal woman.”

Details of Hooks’ memorial service will be shared in the coming days.

The cause of death has not been released.