Ex-Harford senator dies of cancer

GOP state legislator had worked in special session before resigning for health reasons

January 25, 2008|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,Sun reporter

Former state Sen. J. Robert Hooper, who resigned Dec. 31 because of health problems, died last night at his Harford County home of colon cancer. The Republican was 71.

Two months ago, Mr. Hooper, of Street, took part in the legislature's special session, but he announced Nov. 14 that he would resign because his declining health was an obstacle to meeting the demands of the office.

"It would be unjust to the people of the 35th District to expect less than a 100 percent effort from their representative," he said at a news conference. "This I can no longer give."

Then-Del. Barry Glassman was appointed to the Senate seat, with Mr. Hooper's recommendation.

Last night, Sen. Nancy Jacobs, a Republican representing Harford and Cecil counties, said she visited Mr. Hooper 12 days ago, holding his hand at his bedside for about two hours.

"He was considerably weaker, but his wit was still there. He was as sharp as he could be," said Senator Jacobs, who has known Mr. Hooper for 22 years, since the two worked on public schools issues in Harford County.

She said Mr. Hooper devoted his life to helping people, especially children.

"The great majority of the bills he put in were to help constituents," she said. "They came to him basically saying, `This was wrong, this needs to be fixed.' He would agree and put bills in to help people."

Mr. Hooper was born in Baltimore and grew up in Pylesville. He graduated from Bel Air High School in 1954.

That same year, he began running Harford Sanitation Services Inc., a trash-hauling company that grew from one truck and two employees to 50 trucks and 120 employees.

He married Shirley Cullum on Christmas Eve 1957, and they had four children. She survives him.

The businessman ran for the Harford County Council as a Democrat and was elected in 1982. He served two terms before being defeated in 1990.

He successfully ran as a Republican for the state Senate in 1998 and was re-elected twice.

He was known for his work on the finance committee and the joint subcommittee on Program Open Space and Agricultural Land Preservation.

Senator Jacobs said that Mr. Hooper "was a friend to every staff person that he ever met."

"Last summer, he had a huge cookout party for all the staff on the finance committee," she said. "It wasn't for senators, just for the staff and their families."

Mr. Hooper was actively involved with the Salvation Army and around Christmas would serve as a bell-ringer.

"He was very quiet in his good deeds. I know he loved the Salvation Army," Senator Jacobs said. "A few years ago, he got me working at the Harford Mall at Christmas."

He was also involved in the Harford County, Aberdeen and Havre de Grace chambers of commerce, Route 40 Business Association, Harford County Housing Inc. and the Mason-Dixon Business Association.

Mr. Hooper was an active member of Fawn Grove Church of the Nazarene, serving on the church board and teaching Sunday school.

Services were incomplete last night.

brent.jones@baltsun.com

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