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"Tige" Hooper, son of Tenn. governor, dies

Last updated: 5:05 PM, 08/03/2009

Source: The Newport Plain Talk

The son of a Tennessee governor who was the father of a former state senator and sitting circuit judge has died.

Lemuel W. "Tige" Hooper was 91 when he died on Wednesday in Newport.

The son of two-term Governor Ben W. Hooper (1910-1914), and the former Anna Jones, he was the father of Cocke County Circuit Judge Ben Hooper II, who talked with the Newport Plain Talk Wednesday night about his father's life and times.

His love of the outdoors and hard physical labor is revealed in a family photo taken by grandson David Marks in 1992 as he stood with sawn oak logs in a forest clearing near his home in Carson Springs.

His favorite blue 1964 Pontiac LeMans is on a gravel road in the background-it was his work "truck." It was one of only five cars he owned since about age 11, when he began chauffeuring his father. Governor Hooper did not drive.

Tige Hooper was born not far from where the 1992 photo was taken on August 6, 1911, one of six children, who also included Ben Jones Hooper and Randolph Hooper, Anna Bell Phillips, Newell Hurd, and Janella Carpenter. Tragically, his brothers were killed when they were young men in separate automobile accidents.

The following entry from Governor Hooper's diary talks about his son:

Lemuel W. our youngest son and only son now living, is not often called by his real name. Ever since he was a baby, he has been known, at home and abroad, as Tige. His brother, Randolph, then about five years old, hearing discussion about the selection of a name for the new baby, insisted that he be named Bull Tige, after a bulldog our boys then owned. This suggestion of Ran's happened to get into a local paper and the name stuck, shortened to Tige.

The first four years of his life were spent with the family in the Nashville governor's mansion. Then, the family lived in Chicago because Governor Hooper was appointed by President Warren G. Harding to the National Railroad Labor Relations Board.

Unlike the governor and judge, Tige Hooper was never interested in public life and was extremely shy. He never ran for nor held an elected office, but was always quietly supporting Republican candidates and the party.

He attended Newport Grammar School and Cocke County High School, graduating second in his class. In the early 1930s, he married Esther Holt and they had two children: Ben W. Hooper II and Dorothy Jo Ellison, who is a retired school teacher.

Governor Hooper observed that Tige was the "most industrious member" of the family and "one of the most conscientious and honorable men in his dealings that I have ever met."

At the time, he was operating an apple orchard that he and his cousin, James R. Stokely, purchased and improved.

For more than 30 years, Tige Hooper worked at the local cannery, Stokely Brothers, which is now owned by ConAgra.

Lon Thornton Sr. supervised the "upper shed and Tige, the lower shed," said Judge Hooper. Although he was a supervisor, he was known at the cannery for being willing and able to work alongside any employee at the plant.

In 1973, he retired from Stokely's and at 62 continued working as much as ever.

Grandson Ben Hooper III said that Tige would work in the orchard during the day and pick apples during moonlit nights.

He also founded the Carson Springs Water District, which was the only state-approved water then in Cocke County. This consisted of a spring, reservoir, two wells, and water lines serving about 115 residents and Edgemont School.

Judge Hooper said that his father had three families: the people he worked with, his church family at First Baptist, and friends he grew up with in Edgemont and Carson Springs.

During retirement, he built the house later occupied from many years by his son, and took up logging, lumber mill work, and cutting firewood.

Throughout his entire adult life he was an avid hunter whether raccoon, squirrels, ducks, or grouse and loved trout fishing. He taught Fred Myers Jr. his love of nature. Tige and Clarence Shelton made many trips to trout streams in Cherokee, North Carolina's.

"He was a compassionate man-not materialistic-always helping others and devoted his life to the education of his children," said Judge Hooper.

His life was marked by a quiet tenacity and the toughness of an outdoorsman who preferred the solitude of the forest or sitting quietly observing his family at gatherings.

Tige and Esther Hooper were married for about 60 years and most enjoyed wandering in the woods were they selected plants. These were taken to their own forest garden surrounding the family home and included ginseng, trillium, and golden slippers.

He will be buried in the Hooper family section of Union Cemetery 10 a.m. on Friday. The family will receive friends tonight at Manes Funeral Home.

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