Larry Jones Hopkins
Wednesday 25th of October 1933 - Monday 15th of November 2021
Milward - Southland
391 Southland Drive, Lexington, KY
Director At the request of the family, guests are asked to observe mask usage during this event.
Former U.S. Congressman for Kentucky’s Sixth Congressional District Larry Jones Hopkins passed away on November 15, 2021.
Born in Detroit MI on October 25, 1933, he was the only child of Louise Jones Hopkins and James Glenn Hopkins. As a young boy, the family returned to Graves County, where he grew up and played basketball at Wingo High School. Following graduation in 1951, Hopkins attended Murray State University before joining the U.S. Marine Corps in 1954.
After attending basic training at Parris Island SC, he earned a parachute badge and national recognition as a marksman. His service in the Marine Corps gave him a lifelong appreciation and respect for our country’s military personnel and their families.
Prior to being honorably discharged from the military, he married Carolyn Pennebaker of Lone Oak KY, on March 4, 1956. In 1958, Larry was in a near fatal automobile accident in Lexington and Carolyn moved to the city with the couple’s two young daughters for his long recovery. He worked for Cowden Manufacturing and later became a stockbroker with J.B. Hilliard-W.L. Lyons. Active in many civic organizations, he and Carolyn made friends throughout the community.
In 1968, he was appointed Fayette County Court Clerk where he modernized operations, including installing cash registers to replace cigar boxes. Believing everyone had the right to vote, and everyone should vote, he was the first to take voter registration booths to malls and shopping centers.
After losing a close race for County Commissioner, in 1973 he was elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives, where he served three terms. In 1977, he was elected to the Kentucky State Senate; and in 1978, the Republican Party nominated him to run in a special election for the 6th congressional seat. He became the first Republican elected to the office in almost 50 years, and only the second since the Civil War. He served seven terms in Congress.
While in Congress, he established a reputation as a fiscal conservative. Although he supported a strong national defense, he was a critic of wasteful spending by the Pentagon. He became ranking minority member of the House Armed Services Committee and was sworn into the “Black Ops” program with the highest level of security clearance.
He visited military installations throughout the country and around the world, including Europe, Southeast Asia, Central America, Middle East, and the North Pole, and always made a point of seeking out service personnel from Kentucky and calling their families upon his return.
In 1983, following a trip to the military barracks in Beirut, he warned that the troops were extremely vulnerable. His assessment sadly proved to be true when, just a few weeks later, 241 marines and sailors were killed by suicide truck bombings. He was co-chair of the congressional investigation, which led to a reappraisal of the use of military ground forces in foreign countries. Recently this leadership was lauded by the national media as an example of bipartisanship and a template for the way congressional investigations should be conducted.
In 1986, he became one of a select few to ever fly in the legendary high-altitude, Mach 3+ strategic reconnaissance aircraft, the SR-71 Blackbird.
Hopkins brought the House Armed Services Committee to Madison County for a hearing on the chemical weapons being stored at the Bluegrass Army Depot. It was the first time the committee had ever gone on location.
He was instrumental in the USS Kentucky ballistic missile submarine being named for the Commonwealth. The Secretary of Navy asked Carolyn to be the sponsor, and rather than the traditional bottle of champagne, she christened it with a custom blend of Kentucky bourbons.
He was also a member of the House Agriculture Committee, and ranking member of the Tobacco sub-committee, which were very important to the interests of his district at the time.
Above all else, he prioritized service and responsiveness; and although his constituent services were cited as “model operations” by political scientists, he was constantly seeking ways to be accessible and to better communicate with the citizens of the 6th district. Ultimately, he never abandoned the grassroots and personal approach he enjoyed the most. He worked tirelessly, flying home almost every weekend to meet at churches, libraries, and malls to personally hear concerns directly from his constituency.
Hopkins always credited and appreciated the hard work of his staff members and campaign volunteers - many of whom became lifelong friends.
Among his many good works, he helped Keeneland become a national historic landmark, brought the Marine Corps Marching Band to Lexington, helped the efforts to establish a public library in Richmond, and his long support for the Equal Rights Amendment was punctuated by the creation of Lexington’s Annual Women’s Conference. Seeking to reduce the politicization of military academy appointments, he established an advisory panel for recommendations. He frequently visited and spoke at countless schools and educational institutions often presenting American flags flown over the U.S. Capitol.
Being in the minority party his entire political career, Hopkins’ greatest strength, as a legislator, proved to be his ability to make friends on both sides of the aisle. Known for his commonsense approach and disarming humor, his willingness to work through differences and to find common ground, were valued attributes on Capitol Hill.
In 1991, he lost the race for Governor and, the following year, retired from Congress.
He was an avid photographer, enjoyed listening to music, playing the piano and kazoo, gardening, and entertaining children with magic tricks. He appreciated craftsmen and artists and annually attended the St. James and Woodland Art Fairs. For years, he played Santa Claus and loved the holiday season. He was known to frequently share his “lucky” marbles with family, friends, and casual acquaintances.
He will be remembered by his family and friends for his big heart, quick wit and infectious humor, fun-loving spirit, thoughtfulness, kindness, and compassion.
More than anything, he enjoyed being with his family. He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Carolyn Pennebaker Hopkins; their children: Shae Hopkins (Lexington), Tara Hopkins (Lexington), and Josh Hopkins (Austin, TX); grandchildren: Hannah Hopkins Martin Duffy (Mike) in Culver City, CA; Haley Hopkins Martin Dickerson (Dan) in Lexington; J. Ross Hopkins Martin (Emily) in Glendale, OH; and Mary Kathryn “Kate” Campbell Meyer (Barrett) in Lexington; as well as great-grandchildren: Eleanora and Charlotte Duffy; Cooper, Tucker, and Lucy Delle Dickerson; and Roman Meyer.
Visitation will be held on Sunday, November 28th from 1pm to 5pm at Milward’s on Southland Drive, Lexington. At the request of the family, guests are asked to observe mask usage during this event.
A memorial service will be held in the Rotunda of the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort on Saturday, December 4th at Noon.
In lieu of flowers, the family kindly suggests contributions to KET, Kentucky Educational Television, 600 Cooper Drive, Lexington KY 40502 or KET.org.
John and Becky McCauleysays
Congressman Hopkins was a friend and neighbor. He was an independent voice for the people and saw past political parties and partisan politics. His life and service in the United States House of Representatives should be a goal and a guide for how one conducts themselves as a representative of the people. I always enjoyed visiting with the congressman and talking legislation, policy and politics. His wit, humor and stories were infectious and he and Carolyn always welcomed Becky and me into their home. Our deepest condolences to Carolyn, Shae, Tara, Josh, and the entire family.
Representative Hopkins was instrumental in providing the opportunity for us to communicate with our son Scott during the Persian Gulf War. We are forever grateful. Jesse &Barbara Holbrook
DEAR HOPKINS FAMILY! I CAN NEVER EXPRESS MY SYMPATHY FOR THE LOSS OF YOUR HUSBAND AND FATHER! HE ADORED YOU ALL AND TO ME I CAN TELL YOU I TRUELY LOVED HIM AND HIS KINDNESS TO ME WHEN MY MOMMA PASSED IS FOREVER IN MY HEART ALONG WITH HIS SUNDAY HUGS ESPC WHEN I FINALLY GOT PREGNANT AFTER MANY TREATMENTS! IT WAS MY HONOR TO SERVE SUCH A GREAT MAN AND TOOK MY BABY WITH ME TO GO DOOR TO DOOR! HE WAS DEAR FRIEND TO ME , MY FAMILY AND UNCLE WAYNE JONES AND AUNT AVANELLE , NEIGHBORS FOR YEARS AND FRIENDS! MY LOVE TO ALL!
Me, a lifelong democrat spent many New Year Eves with Larry., Also Sue, my wife at that time and me electioneered for Larry even though he was a republican. (We democrats helped put him in office. This country needs more like Larry. Ray Lillie