Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Bill Hopkins remembered as a giant in the Senate

Former Senator Bill Hopkins in August of this year pictured with Senator John Edwards and Ann Holton, wife of U.S. Senator-elect Tim Kaine.

Former state Senator William B. Hopkins Sr., a Franklin County native and veteran Roanoke lawyer died Tuesday at the age of 90. He was retired from his law firm where he was a partner at Martin, Hopkins & Lemon.

In 1959 Hopkins defeated Earl Fitzpatrick, Bev Fitzpatrick’s uncle in a primary . He became a member of Virginia State Senate from 1960-1980 and was Majority Leader from 1972-1976 when Linwood Holton was governor. Sen. Hopkins was an active supporter of U.S. Senator-elect Tim Kaine, President Barack Obama and other Democratic candidates in the 2012 elections. As recent as October he gave a eloquent speech in Franklin County from his wheelchair said Roanoke Senator John Edwards.

“He loved politics, he loved the Democratic Party and loved being involved in improving the community. He was one of the giants of the Senate,” said Edwards. “He really cared about the Democratic Party and was very keen in his analysis and perception of things.”

Sen. Edwards worked at Hopkins law firm for eleven years when it was Martin, Hopkins, Lemon & Carter from 1981 until January of 1992. He was a partner in the firm from 1990 to 1992 when it became Martin, Hopkins, Lemon & Edwards. Edwards subsequently left the firm to start his own practice.

“We were close family friends and remained close friends until he died,” said Edwards. “I remember him very fondly – He was a mentor and a confidant – he was a warm, kind person and really cared about people.”

Sen. Hopkins was a graduate of Washington & Lee University and the University of Virginia Law School. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps in World War II as an officer with the 3rd Marine Division in the Pacific from 1942-1946, and the Korean War from 1950-1952.

He was wounded when he led a Marine Corps unit in an offensive above the 38th parallel that went awry. They were dubbed “the frozen chosen” said Edwards because it was so cold. The Marines fought their way south and Hopkins was asked if he was retreating – his answer was “Hell no, we’re just attacking in reverse,” recounted Edwards. Hopkins received a purple heart for his wounds.

Sen. Hopkins was one of the founding members of Center in the Square. He was instrumental in lobbying legislators for funding. The Hopkins Planetarium was named after him. He was also a past president of the Roanoke Bar Association, Commander of the American Legion, and a member of the V.F.W.

He authored a book published in 2008,  “The Pacific War  – the strategies, politics and key players that shaped the conduct of the war.” It was described as a fresh take on World War II in the Pacific. The book contains a lot of declassified information that other books lack, said Sen. Edwards.

As a Marine captain during the Korean War he commanded H&S Co, 1st Battalion, 1st Regiment, 1st Marine Division. He fought at Chosin and wrote One Bugle No Drums that was more of memoir of his personal experiences.

He loved playing bridge, said Edwards, and he ate lunch at the Shenandoah club almost daily. He was dependent on a wheelchair in later years.

He was predeceased by Virginia, his wife of 62 years. She too was very active in the Democratic Party. He and Virginia are survived by five children.

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Commentary, Politics, State Politics

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