Furniture legend J. Clyde Hooker dies
August 15, 2011 | 7:36 pm UTC

J. Clyde Hooker Jr., furniture industry statesman, community benefactor, decorated World War II veteran and the visionary leader of Hooker Furniture from 1960 until 2000, died July 12 at the age of 89.

Born Dec. 20, 1920, he was the son of Hooker Furniture founder J. Clyde Hooker Sr. and of Mabel Bassett Hooker, the daughter of Charles Bassett, one of the founders of Bassett Furniture. Until 1951, the name of the company was Hooker-Bassett Company.

After he graduated as valedictorian of his class at Virginia Military Institute in 1942, he served with the renowned Third Army in the European Theater of World War II. He was awarded the Bronze Star, three campaign stars and was discharged with the rank of Captain in 1946.

A few months later, he went to work at Hooker Furniture, starting in the factory to learn the manufacturing process before working in the Martinsville headquarters as assistant sales manager. In 1956, he was named sales manager. When he was elected president in 1960, the company had 375 employees, $4.4 million in sales and $170,000 of net income. Upon his retirement in 2000, the company had 2000 employees, over $250 million in sales and $15 million in net income.

Known as an innovator, Hooker kept his company in the forefront of manufacturing advances and of trends in entertainment and office furniture. Under his leadership, Hooker Furniture was one of the first companies to import specialty furniture products over 20 years ago.

Hooker served as president of the Southern Furniture Manufacturers Assn. (now the American Home Furnishings Alliance) and chairman of the Advisory Board of the Dallas Market Center. There are scholarships in his name at both High Point University and his alma mater VMI. 

"Clyde had a significant, positive impact on so many peoples' lives in this company, in our industry and our community," said Paul Toms Jr., chairman and CEO of Hooker. "No matter how you define a life well lived, Clyde achieved extraordinary success. But most important was his impact on others. He was a mentor, friend and father figure to generations," said Toms, who is Hooker's nephew.

Hooker's numerous awards included The Pillar of the Industry Award from the International Home Furnishings Representatives Assn. in 1977, the James T. Ryan Award for Industry Leadership in 1985 and induction into the American Furniture Hall of Fame in 1997.

Read the full press release about Hooker's life achievements.

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