BARBARA Joan (Hood) HOOD
BARBARA Joan (Hood) HOOD
Born in Bryan, Texas, in 1955, Barbara Hood moved to Alaska with her family at the age of ten when her father, an oceanographer, joined the faculty of the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. She attended public schools in Fairbanks until her senior year in high school, when she transferred to The Bush School in Seattle, Washington, graduating in 1973. After one year at Colorado College, she returned to Fairbanks to attend UAF, where she received a B.S. in Biology in 1978.
Inspired by several young attorneys she met in Fairbanks in the late 1970s, Hood took the LSAT (Law School Admission Test) on a lark in the fall of 1979. Encouraged by the results, and by a close friend in the judiciary, she applied to law schools. In 1980, she joined the incoming class at the University of California Berkeley, and the following three years changed the course of her life. She helped organize a student campaign to save Legal Services Corporation – the national civil legal aid program for Americans living in poverty – from elimination by the Reagan Administration. She taught Street Law at a predominantly Black high school in Oakland, and volunteered for Berkeley Law Foundation to support public interest law projects. Most notably, she found a strong circle of kindred spirits through her work on the environmental law journal, Ecology Law Quarterly, where she ultimately served as an Executive Editor.
After graduating from Berkeley Law in 1983, Hood returned to Alaska committed to using her new credential for public service, especially for those living on the margins of our society. She became a Staff Attorney for the Fairbanks office of Alaska Legal Services Corporation, where she focused initially on housing, public benefits, and family law cases, then coordinated Elderly Services. As a volunteer, she joined the local chapter of Amnesty International, where she coordinated the Campaign Against Torture.
In 1985, Hood married Dirk Sisson in Fairbanks. His job as a mechanical engineer soon took them to Anchorage, where they have lived ever since. In 1986, Hood joined the Anchorage Human Services Section of the Alaska Attorney General’s office, where she handled primarily Child in Need of Aid cases. For two years, she covered the CINA cases in the Yukon-Kuskokwim region, traveling to Bethel regularly for court hearings and developing a deep affection for the community. She also covered the Kenai region during her tenure, regularly flying south over Turnagain Arm for court proceedings. Throughout this time, she continued her human rights work for Amnesty International, as a member, then chapter coordinator, for the Anchorage group. In 1989, she became Area Coordinator for Amnesty International in Alaska, providing organizational support to local and student chapters across the state.
In 1990, Hood returned to Alaska Legal Services Corporation as Staff Attorney and Unit Supervisor for public benefits and housing in the Anchorage office. Almost immediately, the Anchorage housing crisis of the early 1990s emerged as one of the greatest challenges of her career, demanding vigilance and long hours to protect her clients from wrongful eviction. Active with the Anchorage Coalition for the Homeless during this period, Hood understood the deep disruption that an eviction can cause to those without financial security, and the great risk of homelessness that follows.
In 1994, Hood took a break from law to start a business with her husband. Great Harvest Bread Co-Anchorage opened its doors in September 1994 and became her passion for 23 years. She served on the Great Harvest Owners’ Advisory Council from 1996-1998 and on the Great Harvest Marketing Board from 1998-2000, sharing ideas and strategies with fellow owners across the country. Over the years, the business regularly donated baked goods to a wide range of organizations and events and embraced a long-standing school-business partnership with the Anchorage School District. As advocates for the arts, they offered the bakery space for art exhibits, literary readings, and displays of poetry. They received several awards from the national franchise for their efforts, including the “Generosity Award,” the “Strong & Exciting Bakery Award”, the “Woo Hoo Award” for exemplary achievement, and regular awards for “Phenomenal Bread.” In Alaska, they were honored in 1998 with the Small Business Philanthropy Award from the Alaska Chapter of the National Association of Fund-Raising Executives.
The same year GHBC opened, Hood helped found two community organizations devoted to issues she cares deeply about. Alaskans Against the Death Penalty was formed when the Alaska legislature considered a bill that would reintroduce the death penalty in the state. Hood volunteered hundreds of hours to AADP to counter the reinstatement push, coordinating and editing two educational exhibits featuring photos and quotes that brought often ignored voices to light: Don’t Kill for Us (1995), featuring Alaskans opposed to capital punishment, and Not In Our Name (1996), featuring murder victims’ family members from across the country who support abolition. She was recognized by AADP for outstanding community activism in 1996 and 2000. Her activism also led to a two-year term on the board of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty from 1998-2000.
Over the years, Hood has used her skills as a photographer and writer to create other photo-text exhibits on behalf of local and national non-profit organizations. In addition to her exhibits against the death penalty, these include Our Neighborhood Has No Borders (1997), for the Immigration and Refugee Services Program of Catholic Social Services; Home for the Holidays (2002), for the Homeward Bound program of Rural Cap; The Common Thread (2003), for the Alaskan AIDS Assistance Association; INSIDE/OUT (2007), for the Success Inside and Out program at Hiland Mountain Correctional Center; and A Midnight Clear (2010), for Partners for Progress. By illuminating their stories, these exhibits helped bring a human face to the challenges and triumphs many Alaskans encounter as they navigate difficult circumstances like illness, addiction, and homelessness.
Also in 1994, Hood joined other concerned citizens to found Friends of the Coastal Trail, which worked for many months to protect the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail from industrial expansion by Anchorage International Airport. The group’s success ultimately led to the dedication of Point Woronzof Park. Moreover, it led to Hood’s future commitment to sound stewardship of parks and open space. In later years, she would spearhead efforts to protect threatened wetlands by co-founding Friends of Turnagain Bog (1999-2000) and to secure the transfer of critical acreage to Chugach State Park through Friends of Near Point (2003-2013). From 2006-2008, she served on the Anchorage Parks Commission, including a term as Vice Chair, and became a strong advocate for fair public process in controversial decisions concerning several of the communities most beloved parks.
From 1997-1999, Hood served as Executive Director of the Alaska Joint State-Federal Courts Gender Equality Task Force, a project initiated by the Alaska Court System and the U.S. District Court for Alaska to address issues of gender bias in Alaska’s legal community and judiciary. Working closely with the task force, she initiated the Women in Law archive and exhibit to draw attention to the historic roles women have played in our state’s justice system and coordinated the first of many Women in Law Luncheons, which took place annually during March – Women’s History Month – to celebrate Alaska’s early women lawyers. In 1998, Hood was recognized by YWCA Alaska as a Woman of Achievement.
From 2000-2013, Hood returned to her legal career to work as an administrative attorney for the Alaska Court System. Initially serving as Court Rules Attorney, she soon began coordinating the court’s outreach and education efforts, transitioning eventually to the new position of Communications Counsel. In the latter role, she served as coordinator of the Color of Justice program (2006-2013), a program sponsored by the National Association of Women Judges to foster diversity in the judiciary; as coordinator of the Alaska Teaching Justice Network (2003-2008), which conducted the Alaska Civic Learning Assessment Project and sponsored statewide civics conferences for social studies teachers; as Final Report Co-Author for the Alaska Legislature’s Citizen’s Advisory Task Force on Civic Education Policy (2007-2008); and as Alaska coordinator for iCivics (2010-2013), the online civics education program founded by U.S. Supreme Court Justice (Ret.) Sandra Day O’Connor. During her tenure with the court, Hood also coordinated the first Supreme Court Live program, an event initiated in 2009 by former Chief Justice Walter Carpeneti that continues to bring Alaska Supreme Court arguments to high schools statewide. From 2001-2013, Hood was a member of the national Conference of Court Public Information Officers and served as membership coordinator on the CCPIO board from 2011-2013.
Upon retirement in 2013, Hood received the Community Outreach Award from the Alaska Supreme Court. Earlier, she had received the Distinguished Service Award from the Alaska Bar Association (2002) and the Justice Jay Rabinowitz Public Service Award from the Alaska Bar Foundation (2010). Her lifetime efforts in both law and community service were recognized by the University of Alaska Anchorage in 2019 with its Meritorious Service Award.
In retirement, Hood has focused her legal advocacy and activism on preserving judicial independence in Alaska. In 2014, she co-founded Justice Not Politics Alaska, a non-profit that works to protect the Judiciary Article of Alaska’s Constitution, which established a system for judicial selection and retention that has worked well since statehood. In 2020, she became a founding board member of Alaskans for Fair and Independent Courts, a non-profit that works to defend judges facing retention from unfair political attacks. Both efforts stem from her conviction that judges must remain as free as possible from the changing tides of political partisanship, and that human rights and civil rights are best protected by impartial courts that recognize and honor the importance of equal justice.
Also in retirement, Hood has witnessed with dismay the grave impacts on human rights at home and abroad as the increasingly polarized political climate worldwide has led many leaders to attack minority rights. In 2016 and 2017, she organized Human Rights Day vigils in Anchorage to help counter rhetoric and actions that posed great harm to those suffering or fleeing from human rights abuse. The vigils were sponsored by the Alaska Institute for Justice, a non-profit that advocates for the rights of immigrants and refugees and communities facing the impacts of climate change. In 2018, Hood was honored with AIJ’s Human Rights Champion award.
In recent years, Hood has turned to a lifelong interest in creative writing and the arts.
Her work has been published in several Alaskan publications, including Anchorage Daily News and Cirque: A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim, and she writes columns for the Anchorage Press on current events. She is currently Board President of 49 Writers, Inc., the statewide writers’ organization, which sponsors classes, readings and retreats in a range of genres. A strong advocate for freedom of expression and the value of creative pursuits in community transformation and healing, Hood hopes to devote more time to writing in the future and to support others as they seek their creative paths.
Through her life’s experiences, Hood believes that injustices in our world that have kept far too many people from living the lives they were meant to live. Her deepest hope is that she will continue to learn and grow from her experiences and walk humbly with others towards a future that is more fair, just, and equitable for everyone.