Carroll Francis Hopkins Sr., 79, horse breeder, racing commissioner

May 22, 2004|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Carroll Francis "Frank" Hopkins Sr., a thoroughbred horse breeder and former member of the Maryland Racing Commission, died of heart failure Wednesday at Elberton Hill Farm near Darlington. He was 79.

"There was something always very special about Frank," said Chick Lang, a longtime friend and former Pimlico general manager. "He loved the business and did very well at it, and many of his horses were named after his farm. He was a class act who bred horses with plenty of class."

He "loved farming, and his favorite thing was being on a tractor," said his wife of 54 years, the former Martha Jane Dugan. Mr. Hopkins was born in Aberdeen and raised in Roland Park. A 1942 graduate of Loyola High School, he interrupted his studies at Georgetown University to enlist in the Army. He was commissioned a lieutenant and served in Germany with occupation forces after the end of World War II.

After returning to the United States, Mr. Hopkins served with the 110th Field Artillery Unit of the Maryland National Guard's 29th Division for 20 years. He was discharged in 1968 with the rank of major.

Mr. Hopkins earned a degree in business administration from Loyola College in 1950. From 1950 to 1955, he was a purchasing agent for the Army Chemical Center at Edgewood Arsenal. He was a sales representative for John J. Greer & Co. Inc., a local steel warehousing firm, from 1955 until 1961, when he joined the U.S. Department of Commerce to promote American firms at overseas trade fairs. He was named director of the department's field office in Baltimore in 1964, and retired in the early 1980s.

In 1962, Mr. Hopkins moved to Elberton Hill Farm, which has been in his family since the 1600s, family members said. Mr. Hopkins and his wife thought rural life and fresh air would be good for their large family -- although at the time he was thinking more about swimming pools than breeding racehorses.

In a 1981 interview with Maryland Horse magazine, Mr. Hopkins said he was introduced to horses by the Pons family, owners of Country Life Farm in Bel Air.

"The Pons family became friendly with us through our mutual church activities, and if you ever go to a Pons party you find yourself drowning in horse talk," he said during the interview. "Well, we wound up buying a brood mare. ... She was our first thoroughbred."

His best-known racehorses in 30 years of breeding included Aberfoyle, winner of the 1997 Maryland Million Sprint, and Elberton, winner of the 2001 Maryland Million Turf.

Mr. Hopkins was appointed to the racing commission in 1992 by Gov. William Donald Schaefer and served until 2001. As much as Mr. Hopkins loved racing, he could be critical of it.

"He didn't duck or avoid sensitive issues," said Mr. Lang, the former Pimlico general manager. "He had strong opinions and feelings that were always motivated by what was best for racing."

He had a reputation for sticking up for the "little man" in racing, and sought special consideration for those who bred and raced horses in Maryland.

Mr. Hopkins had served on the board of the Maryland Million and had been vice president of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association for two terms. He also served on the Maryland Horseman's Assistance Fund Inc. and the Cecil County Breeders' Fair Board.

Mr. Hopkins was a communicant of St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church in Hickory, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. Monday.

Survivors, in addition to his wife, include two sons, C. Frank Hopkins Jr. and J. Michael W. Hopkins, executive director of the Maryland Racing Commission; two daughters, Martha "Boo" Hopkins Chrismer and Amy Hopkins Daney, all of Elberton Hill Farm; a brother, Miles B. Hopkins of Bel Air; a sister, Angelette "Hoppie" Berger of Baltimore; and 14 grandchildren.

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