Honoring Bob Booker

By Mike Steely

Senior Writer


The recent death of Knoxville’s Robert J. “Bob” Booker surprised many who thought the community leader would live forever.

During his long life, Booker was a Civil Rights leader, a founder and director of the Beck Cultural Exchange Center, Knoxville’s first Black state legislator, a historian and writer, a Phi Beta Sigma fraternity member, a member of the state Civil Service Commission, an assistant to former Mayor Kyle Testerman, and so much more.

Booker’s family, friends and followers, elected officials and community members paid respects to the much-loved community leader with services at Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church in Knoxville on Wednesday, February 28.  Thursday morning his ashes were interred in the East Tennessee Veterans Cemetery on Governor John Sevier Highway.

Sgt. Booker served three years with the U.S. Army where, in Germany and England, he was an information education specialist. After service, he attended Knoxville College where he served as a student leader and twice as student president before graduating in 1962.

Thursday’s memorial and interment of Booker’s ashes saw family members and friends watch the formal military ceremony with the Honor Guard, including the presentation of the American flag to the family, a military gun salute, and brief words from Dr. Harold Middlebrook and Beck Center President Rev. Reneé Kesler.