Samuel Hopkins

The stalwart Republican and civic activist, a descendant of Johns Hopkins, fought for historic preservation.

November 07, 2008|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Samuel Hopkins, a retired businessman and active Republican who combined his lifelong love of history and advocacy for historic preservation, died Wednesday of pneumonia at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He was 95.

"Sam Hopkins was one of the great gentlemen of Baltimore. He was totally nice, decent and courteous," Gov. Martin J. O'Malley said in a telephone interview. "He was a man who had tremendous reverence for Maryland's history and its leadership role in our country."

Julian L. Lapides, a Baltimore attorney and former Democratic state lawmaker, was a longtime friend of Hopkins, whose public service included serving in the state legislature as well as on a range of city and nonprofit boards.

"Sam was a magnificent Baltimorean, a great Marylander and a great American. I can't think of anyone who was more generous, fair and honest when it came to the city," he said.

"My deep wish is that there were only more Republicans alive like him. Sam was totally generous and giving of himself and his time," he said.

In a 2003 profile Mr. Hopkins told a Sun reporter that his passion for Maryland history and penchant for civic activism began as a child when he was growing up at White Hall, his family's farm in Highland, Howard County, "listening to the older people talk."

Born and raised at White Hall, Mr. Hopkins was a great-grandnephew of Johns Hopkins, the Quaker philanthropist and Baltimore merchant.

Other Quaker relatives included Elisha Tyson, the outspoken Baltimore abolitionist, and Martha Ellicott Tyson, a founder of Swarthmore College.

Even though Mr. Hopkins was a lifelong Episcopalian, he enjoyed speaking of the profound and lasting influence his Quaker ancestors had on him.

"They were very much a part of my life," he said in The Sun interview. "These people were not ostentatious, but much more egalitarian than others. They were ahead of their time."

The son of a livestock commission merchant, Mr. Hopkins spent his boyhood in a rural farmhouse heated by fireplaces and illuminated with kerosene lamps and candles.

His early education was in a one-room school in Highland, and he later attended McDonogh School on a scholarship, graduating in 1930.

In the early 1930s, he spent summers working as a merchant seaman for the Baltimore Mail Line and later as a runner for Safe Deposit & Trust Co. Meanwhile he attended the Johns Hopkins University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in business economics in 1934.

Mr. Hopkins joined Fidelity Deposit Co. in 1934, and studied law at night at the University of Maryland School of Law. He earned his law degree in 1938.

In 1942, Mr. Hopkins enlisted in the Navy and served as a navigator aboard the USS Custer, an attack transport, and the hospital ship Solace in the Pacific, and participated in some of the major landings of the war including Guam, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

After being discharged with the rank of lieutenant in 1945, Mr. Hopkins returned to Safe Deposit & Trust Co., where for the next 25 years he was a vice president, secretary and a director.

After retiring in 1970, he joined Alex. Brown & Sons, serving as a partner until retiring for a second time in 1987.

Mr. Hopkins' civic and political involvement in Baltimore spanned nearly 70 years.

A stalwart Republican, he was a founder in 1941 of the Citizens Planning and Housing Association.

He served in the House of Delegates from Baltimore from 1950 to 1954, and ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1952.

Four years later, he ran unsuccessfully for Baltimore mayor, losing to Mayor Thomas L. D'Alesandro Jr.

Mr. Hopkins was president of the city Board of Recreation and Parks from 1965 to 1967, and again from 1974 to 1977. He was vice president of the board from 1968 to 1974.

He was a member of the city Planning Commission for a decade until stepping down in 1995.

Mr. Hopkins' board memberships included the old Equitable Trust Co. and the Essex Corp. He served as trustee and vice president of the board of the Sheppard Pratt Hospital from 1970 to 1987.

From 1995 until his death, he was a member of the board of the Friends of Clifton Mansion and was a member of the Friends of Maryland's Olmsted Parks and Landscapes board.

He was a longtime member of the Maryland Historical Society, where he was treasurer from 1956 to 1970 and president from 1970 to 1976. He was chairman of its board from 1988 to 1990.

In recent years, Mr. Hopkins led the effort to preserve the historic George Ellicott House in Ellicott City and pushed to save the Clifton Mansion in Clifton Park, once the summer residence of Johns Hopkins.

The longtime Wendover Road resident, whose civic activities brought him recognition and numerous awards, remained busy until the end of his life.

"Sam was pretty active until a few weeks ago and was still directing things from our home," said his wife of 53 years, the former Anne E. Dankmeyer.

"I think at the end of his life, what he was most interested in was Clifton Mansion and encouraging people to do things and get involved," she said.

Mr. Hopkins was a communicant for more than 50 years at Old St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Charles and Saratoga streets, where a memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Monday.

Also surviving are four sons, Samuel B. Hopkins and Frederick M. Hopkins, both of Roland Park, Henry H. Hopkins of Gibson Island and Robert B. Hopkins of Homeland; a brother Dr. James E.T. Hopkins of Bel Air; 11 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. His first wife of 16 years, the former Winifred Bloodgood, died in 1954.

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