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As Long as We Remember...

January 30, 2008

Senator Robert Hooper – R.I.P.

Kevin E. Dayhoff

Last Thursday, former State Senator J. Robert Hooper, (R., Harford) passed away from colon cancer while surrounded by his family at his home in Street. He served in the Maryland Senate for nine years. His memory lives on in many different ways for people from all walks of life. For some he was a businessman, a Sunday school teacher, an avid cheerleader for Boy and Girl Scouts, a strong supporter of 4-H, a “Big Brother,” a soccer player, and just a local guy who picked up your trash.

Sen. David Brinkley (R., Frederick/Carroll) paid tribute to the senator when he said from the floor of the chamber last Friday: “We are relieved that Senator Hooper is passed from his pain, and he is in a better place. He certainly loved his service to his community, he loved his service to the state, and he certainly loved this body.”

Although he was born in Baltimore, he grew up in Harford County and graduated from Bel Air High School. Among his childhood friends was Cal Ripken, Sr., with whom he played baseball and soccer.

He married Shirley Cullum, a cousin of Mr. Ripken, Sr.’s wife “Vi” on Christmas Eve, 1957.

According to his website bio: “On September 1, 1954, with a little financing and a lot of hard work, Bob began living out the American Dream by co-founding Harford Sanitation Services, Inc. From the business’ humble beginnings of one truck and two people, Bob now proudly states that his business employs 120 people, manages a fleet of 55 trucks, and remains in business after 51 years of service to the residents of Harford County.”

Sen. Larry Haines, (R., Carroll/Baltimore) said: “Bob Hooper was a true conservative and on the issues he took up – he was tenacious. He came up in the old school and developed his own business. He was a super legislator. He was a devout Christian and attended our weekly Senate prayer group every Wednesday morning at 7:30 A.M. He drove down from Harford early to be there…”

In the waning days of last fall’s 22-day special taxing session, on November 15, Senator Hooper announced his resignation effective December 31, due to his rapidly declining health.

Baltimore Sun reporter Mary Gail Hare quoted what he said at that time: “It would be unjust to the people of the 35th District to expect less than a 100 percent effort from their representative. This I can no longer give.”

“After the session, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said the legislature was impressed by Mr. Hooper's determination to attend November's grueling special session,” wrote Ms. Hare. “He had a very tough disease, and it was very painful, but he insisted on being here the entire time. He would camp out on the couch in the back even though his nausea was just driving him crazy,” said Senate President Miller.

On his last day in the Senate, a vote was taken on a resolution which said, in part: “The Senate of Maryland offers its sincerest congratulations to Senator J. Robert Hooper in recognition of your 9 years as our esteemed colleague, who has served the constituents of Harford County with great integrity and commitment.”

It is not very often that a person can look up at the vote-tally board in the Maryland State Senate and see all green lights, however on that occasion – there it was: 46-0.

Senator Hooper’s longstanding close friend and colleague, Harford County Republican Sen. Nancy C. Jacobs, has placed a moving tribute on her website, , which is full of pictures from a reception, held in Senator Hooper’s honor in November. It was the last time many of his colleagues would see him.

According to published accounts, Senator Jacobs noted that Senator Hooper “was full of integrity, full of energy, full of life, and he was one of those people who never gives up whether it was a battle for his life or an issue he cares about…” After last fall’s special session, his home “was decorated with all the pictures from his office. On the door to his room, he had his sign from his parking spot and it was a reflection of who he is…”

Yesterday, the Senate held their session early, so that legislators would have time to travel to the Bel Air Church of the Nazarene for a noon funeral service.

I recently spoke with Harford County Executive David R. Craig, who had spoken highly of Senator Hooper for many years.

He reminded me that Senator Hooper was a man of great depth and conviction who served his community in many ways, above and beyond being an elected official.

Mr. Craig said that he worked with Senator Hooper for many years in many different capacities and that he was a conservative Democrat when he served (for eight years) on the Harford County Council. And that he changed parties … before running for the Senate in 1998.

There was much more to him than just holding an office, Mr. Craig remarked.

He always used Senator Hooper as one example of how an elected official could be friendly, respectful, soft-spoken, and well liked – and yet still be a force to be reckoned with when it came to legislative advocacy for his constituency.

“Bob Hooper was truly an every man. He was at home with any group of people. He relied on common sense and common decency and a great faith in our Lord’s guidance to help him help others. We should all take a lesson from how he lived his life and keep his legacy alive.”

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster: E-mail him at:

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