Remembering Jim Hooker

On April 19, 2020, Televerde co-founder, visionary and dear friend Jim Hooker passed away.

Jim leaves behind a company that is one of its kind. His support and advocacy for the most disempowered among us never wavered and was evident in both his words and actions.

Jim challenged all of us to look beyond societal stigmas and see people for who they are today and what they could be in the future. As he said time and again, “Discarding people for the rest of their life, based on a decision they made on the worst day of their life, is such a waste of human potential.” Jim’s spirit and legacy will forever serve as the foundation of Televerde and the Televerde Foundation.

While our hearts are sad over Jim’s passing, they are also filled with gratitude that our paths crossed with his. We will celebrate and honor his memory always by continuing the work he cherished.

Watch Jim’s TEDx My Journey from Privilege to Prison.

About Jim Hooker

Jim Hooker’s life has been filled with getting into deals he couldn’t refuse.

After majoring in anything but school during college, and after being drafted into the Army following the Vietnam War withdrawal, Hooker didn’t start to get serious about his career until earning his MBA at American University in Washington.

“I was a top student. I liked finance and liked the challenge,” said Hooker, who was born in Baltimore and spent two years in the Army.

“I got more focused. I wanted to run IBM.” He started selling IBM computers to companies in Brooklyn, New York. He admitted he sold a lot but didn’t finish many deals.

A former manager asked him, after a couple years working for IBM, to be a marketing director for a reseller of computer hardware and software. Hooker said he thought it was a good career move, at least until he got another deal a few years later that he couldn’t refuse.

That job was to run a hardware, leasing, and maintenance business for a software company focused on the apparel business. But he left after a couple years because of professional differences.

Yet the move helped him to start his own computer leasing company in Manhattan, where he leased and sold hardware. He ended up selling his Ceres Capital Corp. to PacifiCorp Capital Corp. after six years for an undisclosed price. Hooker continued working for PacifiCorp, moving to Virginia with his wife and three boys. After a year there, he became the company’s president and COO.

After PacifiCorp merged with Bell Atlantic Capital and became Pacific Atlantic Capital Corp., Hooker moved to Phoenix as its executive vice president.

“I never wanted to live in Phoenix, but I got a deal I couldn’t refuse,” he said. “I liked the money and the opportunity.

It looked like an interesting kind of deal. It was better for two companies to be together than competing.”

Yet again, the deal that seemed good soured for professional and cultural differences, Hooker said.
In college, Hooker said learned to play bridge after his roommate was one of the top card counters and a gamer. Instead of plunging back into the business work, Hooker said he decided he would focus on being a world-class bridge player. “It was always a hobby I was pretty good at,” Hooker said.

He entered competitions and won regional events, playing with the best players in the world.
But, once again, after a couple years he became bored and decided to look for something else.
By then it was the dawn of the early World Wide Web, and he found an opportunity after meeting the founder of Televerde in 1995. The Phoenix-based sales and marketing solutions provider used trained women in correctional facilities as call center employees.

“The business idea was small, but I really liked the idea of being able to do something for the women who were incarcerated,” Hooker said. “I loved the challenge. Everyone said I couldn’t make this work.”

Although he initially was just an investor, he bought out a partner and became CEO in March 1996.
“They needed a leader, and I wanted to create the best solution,” Hooker said. “I found the ladies to be intelligent, perceptive and willing to learn the most complex things. It was an exciting time.”

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