HON. RICHARD JOSEPH HOPKINS. Lawyer, orator, former lieutenant governor and now attorney-general of Kansas, Richard Joseph Hopkins is without question one of the most influential Kansans of the present generation. His home since early boyhood, in 1879, has been in Finney County and at Garden City.
He was born in Jefferson City, Missouri, April 4, 1873, and was six years of age when he came into Western Kansas with his parents, his father being the late Col. William Robert Hopkins.
His parents settled in what was then Sequoyah, now Finney County, Kansas. Richard J. acquired his early education in Garden City, graduating from high school in 1892. He then taught a year in public schools, was for two years a student in Kansas University, and then entered Northwestern University at Chicago, graduating from the law department of that eminent institution with the class of 1901.
In selecting a profession for himself it seems but natural that he should choose the law, since his father graced that honorable profession for many years and was a distinguished figure in the life of Western Kansas. In the year of his admission to the bar he entered practice in Chicago, and for five years was a member of the Chicago bar. Returning to the scenes of his boyhood, he became junior member of the law firm of Hopkins & Hopkins, and was associated with his father in practice until the latter's death. In the law Mr. Hopkins has proved an able advocate, his alertness and keenness of mind being fundamentals in his success. Doubtless too in some strain of his Irish ancestry he inherited a native talent for speaking, though his oratory is not mere fluency but rather the adorned expression of deep conviction and thorough study on nearly all the complicated problems of national and social affairs. Following the long established precedent of the legal profession in its inclination for political battles, Mr. Hopkins has found an outlet for some of his dynamic qualities in political affairs and his political career is now and has been for some years a recognized asset to the state.
Always a republican at heart and aligned with the progressive element of the party, he has sympathized with and fought for purity in politics and for better tone and greater consideration for personal honor among public officials, with the end always in view to secure better government.
While his political career has been somewhat brief, his advancement was rapid and brilliant. In 1908 he was elected to the Lower House of the State Legislature from Finney County. In the session of 1909 he was chosen speaker pro tem of the body. In that session he was also a member of the committee on banks and banking, which had much to do with formulating the bank guarantee law of Kansas. Other important committee assignments came to him in the judiciary, forestry, irrigation and legislative reapportionment committees. Circumstances were such during that session that he many times was called upon to preside over the House, and on those occasions he demonstrated a dignity and power as a parliamentary leader which was without question a large factor in commending him to the voters of the state in the next campaign as candidate for lieutenant governor. In August, 1910, he led the republican gubernatorial candidate in the state primaries in many counties by large majorities, and at the November election was elected lieutenant governor by a large majority.
The session of 1911 was characterized by much factional bitterness. As presiding officer of the Senate Mr. Hopkins was deprived of the privilege of appointing the Senate committees, which for time out of mind had been the usual custom. This was due to a combination of the "standpatters" of his own party with five democrats. Thus the lieutenant governor was shorn of much of his ordinary power on account of the bitterness between the two factions in republican ranks. In such a situation the tact and dignity of Governor Hopkins shone all the brighter. Regarding the conduct of the majority of the Senate as wholly political and not at all personal, he continued to preside over the deliberations of the body with the same fairness, ability and dignity as if no such revolutionary incident had occurred. As a result he secured from the entire Senate words of the highest praise and commendation at the close of the session. Senator Price, for many years a leader of the Senate, expressed the general sentiment when he said: "I have been in touch with this Senate for many years, but I know of no presiding officer during that period who has excelled Governor Hopkins in fairness or parliamentary knowledge or in capacity, to expeditiously conduct the business of this body." When the session came to a close its members presented Mr. Hopkins with a beautiful gold watch as a token of their genuine friendship and esteem and for their appreciation of his ability, fairness and courteous demeanor. It was a remarkable personal triumph and not without good effect on the party organizations and the state at large. The reputation he acquired in the Senate has continued to follow him and he is steadily rising in the scale of appreciation as one of the big men of Kansas today.
Something should now be said of his ancestry and parentage. His great-grandfather was Samuel Hopkins. It is said that when he was an infant he was carried over the battlefield of Brandywine at the time of the Revolution. He became prominent as a lumber dealer, shipping large quantities of timber to Baltimore, and through that business he became intimately associated with President Buchanan. He was also a friend of Bettie Patterson, of Baltimore, who married Jerome Bonaparte. Samuel Hopkins was a member of the first temperance society organized in the United States, at Philadelphia. His wife, Sarah Entriken, was of Irish descent. Samuel Hopkins died at Marietta, Pennsylvania. His children comprised his son Joseph and six daughters.
Joseph Hopkins, grandfather of Lieutenant Governor Hopkins, was born at Westchester, Pennsylvania, and spent most of his life at Marietta in that state. He was a contractor and builder and helped build the Erie Canal. He afterwards moved west to Wabash, Indiana, and from there about 1856 went to Missouri. While in that state he joined the Union army and after its close returned to Jefferson City, where he died. Joseph Hopkins married Frances Barkus, and their children who grew up were: Lewis, who was a soldier in his brother Robert's company in the Civil war; Mrs. Tina Hamilton and Mrs. Kate Minard; and Col. William R.
Col. William Robert Hopkins was born in Wabash County, Indiana, in 1846, and when a child went to Missouri, where he grew up and received his education. Though very young at the time, he enlisted as a private in Company I of the Twelfth Missouri Cavalry and served throughout the war. He was with General Wilson on the march of his command from Tennessee to Macon, Georgia. On leaving the army he returned to Jefferson City and married there in 1870 Miss Elizabeth Murphy. She was born in County Cork, Ireland, December 27, 1849, and was an infant when brought to the United States. Her father, Capt. Richard Murphy, was a large contractor and builder in Missouri's capital city. Colonel Hopkins and wife had nine children, and the following reached maturity: Richard J.; Dr. Lewis W., a dental surgeon of Garden City; Fannie, who married C. M. Colburn, an oil operator at Tulsa, Oklahoma, Mary L., wife of Dennis D. Doty, of Garden City; William R., Jr., a chiropractor of Helena, Montana; Nellie, wife of J. A. Meyer, of Riley, Kansas; J. Emmett, with the Interstate Commerce Commission; and Elizabeth Murphy, who is now Mrs. Preston Burtis of Garden City.
In Jefferson City, where he was reared, Colonel Hopkins was admitted to the bar in 1871, and practiced law there until he came to Kansas in 1879. He settled on government land near Garden City and was one of the pioneers of Finney County. He helped to organize it and was chosen its first county attorney. In 1890, as a republican, he was elected to the Lower House of the Kansas Legislature. That was during the high tide of the populist movement in the state. He was returned to the House by re-election in 1892 and also in 1894. Colonel Hopkins had the distinction of being author of the general irrigation laws of Kansas enacted in 1892. He was also author of the measure appropriating money from the state treasury for the first experiments in irrigation in Western Kansas. He was a member of the famous "Douglas House" when the "Dunsmore House" was holding its sessions in the same chamber until it was declared an illegal body by the State Supreme Court. An account of that famous legislative contest will he found on other pages. For many years Colonel Hopkins was city attorney of Garden City and for several years was president of the city board of education. His party honored him with the nomination for judge of the thirty-second judicial district. At that time party affiliations were beginning to decay and a combination of other causes brought about his defeat. He continued his large practice as a lawyer until the end, and his death on December 10, 1913, was a matter of general sorrow and regret all over the state.
Returning now to Richard J. Hopkins it should he mentioned that for several years he has been city attorney of Garden City and is also attorney for the ditch companies of Western Kansas, representing them in their litigation of water rights as against the similar companies of Colorado along the Arkansas River. Governor Hopkins is a member of the local chapter of the Red Cross and was designated by Governor Capper as one of the "war orators" for Kansas. He is a member of the board of the Congregational Church at Garden City. Fraternally he is affiliated with the Masonic Order, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Knights of Pythias, and in college was a member of the Greek letter fraternity Sigma Nu.
On September 16, 1909, at Eminence, Kansas, he married Miss Dora May Cathcart. Mrs. Hopkins was born January 12, 1879, daughter of Daniel P. Cathcart, now a prominent rancher of Finney County. She was a graduate of Colorado College at Colorado Springs. To them three children were born: Isabel, June 17, 1910, Richard Cathcart, January 27, 1912, and Daniel Robert, December 13, 1917. Mrs. Hopkins was a victim of the influenza epidemic which swept the country during the fall and winter of 1918-1919. She was attacked by the disease November 11, 1918, and died November 18 from pneumonia. The following extract from the Kansas City Star soon after is not inappropriate. "Kansas will read with sorrow of the death of Mrs. Richard J. Hopkins, at her home in Garden City Monday. Mr. and Mrs. Hopkins have lived in Garden City and Western Kansas practically all their lives. There in the short grass country there is a democracy of friendship peculiar to itself. Acquaintance and friendship are not limited to the single community, nor to class, nor to position in life. Men and women make their impressions upon the life of the people there by worth and merit.
"Mrs. Hopkins was a companion to her husband in all his work and a sharer of all his ambitions for social and political service. They were leading spirits in all the affairs of the domain of the short grass country that made for better conditions and better development.
"Mr. Hopkins had just been elected attorney general of the statean honor which he obtained because of his activities for a new order of life, social, political and economic, in Kansas. In his campaign, as in all his public service, Mrs. Hopkins took the most active interest and the keenest delight, and she entertained all the high hopes of her husband in his vision as to the service he contemplated for the state.
"It is a loss to the state, as well as to the wide circle of personal friends, that Mrs. Hopkins should be taken just as she was to have entered on a broader field of influence in the state capital."
Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p.,  leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.
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