BY CARL GREEN
East St. Louis, IL – A longtime leader of Iron Workers Local 392, the late Charles J. Hopkins, is being honored with a special $5,000 scholarship in his name for college students from Iron Workers families.
Hopkins served 21 years as financial secretary-treasurer of Local 392, which covers much of western and southern Illinois, including all or parts of 20 counties. He died this past Jan. 24 at the age of 92.
The one-time scholarship, sponsored by the Gori Julian law firm, is a great opportunity for substantial funding for established college students. It will go to the junior, senior or graduate student who wins an essay contest on a national Labor topic.
Applications are available at Local 392 hall, at 2995 Kingshighway (Illinois 111), just south of I-70 at Fairmont City. The applications must be turned in by June 21.
The union hall also has applications for the national Iron Workers’ annual scholarship program. They are due back by June 7.
A FULL LIFE
Charles Hopkins had a full and interesting life that included serving in the Navy during World War II and playing nine years in professional baseball.
Hopkins grew up in East St. Louis and joined the union in 1947, becoming a journeyman. In 1970, he became financial secretary-treasurer, serving until his retirement in 1991, when he was named financial secretary-treasurer emeritus.
His son, John J. Hopkins of Gori Julian, said Charles Hopkins was also known for another important reason – playing Santa Claus.
“For some he was known as Dad, others Grandpa, but for generations of children he was known as the one and true Santa Claus, especially at the Local 392 Christmas party,” John Hopkins said.
“His generosity was felt far and wide, and particularly by the Local 392 members who had their dues paid or carried by this very decent man. He touched many and leaves a legacy worth imitating.”
Charles Hopkins’ business card included a statement on the back that summarized his philosophy. It stated: “You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”
His son added, “Throughout his time in Organized Labor, he was known as a man of integrity and honor, one whose word was his bond.”
Hopkins played professional baseball for nine years for teams in the St. Louis Browns’ and Baltimore Orioles’ organizations before retiring from the game in 1955 and returning to the Iron Workers. He once told newsman Mark Hodapp for a 2012 profile, “I wouldn’t take a million dollars for the good time that I had.”
Later in his life, he watched his grandson Gabe Hopkins playing baseball at Waterloo High School. “The only advice I ever gave to Gabe was just to swing the bat,” Hopkins said in that interview. “Don’t ever get called out. That aggravates a manager.”
Hopkins was mainly a defensive-minded catcher but played a little outfield, too. He also managed for a short time and was even known to drive the team bus. He said the best player he ever played against was future St. Louis Cardinals star Ken Boyer.
(The complete article, called “Labor of Love: Charlie’s Minor League Journey,” can be found at markhodapp.wordpress.com.)