The passing of Joe C. Hopkins, a lawyer and co-founder of the only Black-owned newspaper in Pasadena, inspired tributes from local leaders and area community groups, including the Pasadena City Council, which adjourned its meeting Nov. 6 in his memory.
Hopkins, recognized as an advocate for social justice and community service, died on Oct. 31. He was 82.
“Joe stood for fairness and equality and never shied from standing alone in pursuit of individual and group rights,” said Mayor Victor Gordo. “We’ve lost a pillar in our community.”
Councilman Justin Jones said he saw Hopkins as a mentor.
“One thing that always stuck out to me from him was his perseverance,” Jones said, noting Hopkins’ relentless efforts to pass the state bar.
Other accolades and condolences came from Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-Burbank) and Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), who in 2018 honored Hopkins and his wife Ruthie as civil rights pioneers after the California Legislative Black Caucus presented the couple with its “Unsung Heroes” award.
“His unwavering commitment to addressing crucial issues such as diversity, equitable hiring practices and combating racism within law enforcement and government was truly inspiring,” said Latricia Mitchell, president of the NAACP Los Angeles. “Today, we honor Joe’s profound impact on the community he served. His tireless efforts and passionate advocacy will forever be etched in our hearts.”
Hopkins was born on Aug. 10, 1941, in Altus, Okla. His family moved to California in 1948. Hopkins graduated from Bakersfield High School and opened a barber shop with his brother Albert Jr. He was running that business when he reconnected with Ruthie Mae Reese. He and Ruthie shared the same babysitter, Hopkins’ Grandma Shaw.
The couple married in 1962 and made their home in Altadena in 1969, raising three sons to always do what’s right, their son Yusef Olaitan-Hopkins told the California Black Media, which represents independent Black-owned-and-operated news publishers.
Hopkins earned his juris doctorate from Glendale University College of Law and opened his practice in 1982. He moved his practice to Pasadena shortly after, focusing on criminal defense, wrongful termination, workplace discrimination and police misconduct cases.
The couple started the “Pasadena/San Gabriel Valley Journal News” in 1989. In 2003, Hopkins wrote a book of essays, “I Will Not Apologize: Uncompromising Solutions to America’s Dilemma in the 21st Century.”
Gordo said Hopkins’ legacy lives on in his family as well as the newspaper he founded. He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Ruthie Mae Hopkins, and their three sons, Yusef, Omar and Jamal, seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Funeral services are pending at the First African Methodist Episcopal (FAME) Church in Pasadena.
Gordo said Hopkins encouraged his political hopes early on and was not shy about offering his thoughts to leaders on the state of Pasadena.
“I know our city’s better for it,” he said.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Joe C. Hopkins Scholarship Fund managed by the NAACP Los Angeles. For more information, visit naacplosangeles.org.