Mayor's memoir to tell all, but kindly Publication planned when he leaves office

January 21, 1996|By Ellen Gamerman | Ellen Gamerman,SUN STAFF

This could be the ultimate page-turner for Annapolis political junkies: Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins tells it as he's seen it.

Mr. Hopkins, who has been preparing his memoir for several years, says he won't spill any big screts or assassinate any characters but will take a kindhearted look at the city's players.

Nevertheless, he plans to describe how fellow aldermen get support for controversial issues and detail some of the personal motivations behind their votes.

"There are a lot of things he has kept notes on that people will be surprised to read about," said Marion Hopkins, the mayor's wife who has been by his side during his 32-year political career.

"These are things he isn't able to say now. It's going to be revealing," she said.

Mr. Hopkins said he plans to publish his memoir, a combination of political anecdotes and personal confession, after his term expires next year.

He describes the book, tentatively titled "From Hell Point to City Hall," as the story of a native Annapolitan's rise from social outcast to local hero.

It also will describe county executives and previous mayors, include tidbits about current aldermen, and offer Mr. Hopkins' spin on local stories.

"I'll talk about my relationships with all of them, the good and the bad," said Mr. Hopkins, 70, a two-term mayor prevented by law from seeking re-election. "This is not just my side of the story. This is the truth."

The mayor's political associates say they're preparing for a lively read. After all, they note, this is a mayor who doesn't always shy away from less-delicate topics. At a recent city council meeting, for example, he railed against revelers who he said were having sex on the hood of a car at City Dock.

"Anybody who has been involved in the city or lived here for a while will find it a real hoot," said Alderman Ellen O. Moyer, who represents part of Eastport.

"It makes me curious, I'll tell you that. I haven't the foggiest notion what he'd say about me," she said. The mayor has said he will respond to his critics in his book, a declaration that leaves some city officials wondering just how kindly this memoir will be.

"I think he may really go to town, and just really take some shots," said one city official who asked not to be named.

Some aldermen say it could offer insight into a man who is anything but an open book.

"This might give us an opportunity to see more of his feelings on issues over the years," said Alderman Louise Hammond, who represents downtown residents. "Without it, we might not have any way of knowing."

Friends say they have heard the mayor talk about this book for years, and some have even seen him writing in his leather-bound diary or jotting down notes during conversations.

Mr. Hopkins says he usually scribbles parts of chapters on a yellow legal pad or talks into a tape recorder -- and although he rarely carves out extended time to write, he has written more than even his wife of 49 years would suspect.

Much of the memoir will focus on his childhood as a poor youngster growing up on the rough side of town in a neighborhood known as Hell Point.

His parents, Pearl and Archie Hopkins, were barely attuned to the dreams of their son in their modest house at 21 East St. The family never had dinner together, and his parents scarcely spoke, he said.

Every morning, his mother would wake him for school by shouting "Brother!" -- his nickname -- without moving from her bed. A string of boyfriends paraded into the arms of his still-married mother. He was hardly surprised when his parents divorced shortly after World War II, he said.

The mayor describes much of his life as the story of an outsider. He recounts what he called a "keystone" episode for the book -- the time his future mother-in-law declared him too rough for the likes of her daughter.

"My mother-in-law was alive when I became mayor but she never once said, 'I made a mistake.' She never complimented me," Mr. Hopkins said. "I guess she couldn't humble herself."

There were other griefs -- his sister, Adelle, who was two years older and died before he was born; and his son, Alfred "Skip" Hopkins, who suffered a brain tumor and died at age 27.

While Mr. Hopkins isn't saying what will be in the book, some view it as the mayor's way of making peace with his past.

"A person who's been through what Al's been through, you never know what their innermost feelings are," said Roger "Pip" Moyer, a former mayor and longtime friend. "When you get ready to write, you tell the truth."

But Mr. Hopkins sees the book more as a story of his own triumph.

"I could have turned out to be a mean person," he said. "If no one cares for you, if your parents don't care for you, why in the hell should you care? But I didn't cause anyone any trouble. I turned out to be a success."

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