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‘One of the finest men.’ Former Gainesville police Chief Frank Hooper dies at 64
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Frank Hooper - photo by Scott Rogers

The last time Chad White spoke with his friend and former chief, Roy Franklin Hooper Jr., the chief was at peace about where he was headed.

“He said, ‘Chad, if I have to leave this world, I know where I’m going,’” said White, a retired captain from the Gainesville Police Department. “‘My name was written many years ago in the book of life, and I know where I’m going.’”

Hooper, who White called one of the “finest Christian men I’ve ever known,” reassured him that the two would meet again.

Hooper died Monday, May 16, at the age of 64.

He spent 32 years with the Gainesville Police Department and was appointed police chief in 1998. He retired at the age of 52 in 2009. 

Hall County Coroner Marion Merck said Hooper died after a brief illness but did not provide additional information about how he died.

“Chief Hooper was a great friend and mentor that will be missed by all. Chief Hooper is the definition and example of a legacy; his life includes many accomplishments,” Gainesville Police Chief Jay Parrish said in a statement. “He put a stamp on the future, and made a contribution to future generations. He was successful at overcoming adversity, excelling as a leader, creating innovation and much more. As a friend, a co-worker, mentee, and citizen, I will always be thankful for Chief Hooper and his service to this community.”

When thinking back to the advice Hooper gave him over the years, Parrish said one of the things that always rings in his ear is the idea that a good leader has to “be willing to serve those we lead.”

Parrish said the former chief believed in him and told others that Parrish had the potential to be chief.

“He always told me I could do whatever I wanted to do as long as I didn’t get in my own way,” Parrish said. “I think I really started to understand what that meant when I made chief.”

White said the law enforcement community was heartbroken Monday at the news, as Hooper was beloved locally and across the state of Georgia. He was awarded the Chief of the Year honor in 2007 by the Georgia Association of Police Chiefs.

“Frank Hooper was one of the finest men I’ve ever known,” Hall County Sheriff Gerald Couch said in a statement. “He had a true servant’s heart and that’s what made him not only a fine leader in law enforcement, but a real friend to our community. Chief Hooper was well-loved and respected and I counted him as a good friend. I’ll miss him and so will all of Gainesville and Hall County.”

Hooper was a second-generation Gainesville police officer who started his career with the department in January 1978. His father, Roy Franklin Hooper Sr., served 25 years with Gainesville Police.

In a June 1998 edition of The Times, Hooper said he had always aspired to be police chief.

White said Hooper’s contributions to the department include the community policing program and the establishment of the K-9 unit.

Parrish said the chief was ahead of his time in the early 1990s by seeing the importance of accreditation for the police department.

“That really paid off in times of civil unrest that we were already following best practices,” Parrish said. “I think he saw this pendulum swing going on from how policing was in the ’60s, ’70s and early ’80s and to where it was going today.”

White said Hooper treated everyone fairly and with compassion. The chief had a professional and personal relationship with his officers, knowing not only the officer but their spouses and children.

“He knew a lot of their birthdays and their wedding anniversaries,” White said. “That’s how much (he was) involved. He was a people person.”

Hooper recruited White to the police department from the Hall County Sheriff’s Office more than 30 years ago. White was promoted over the years, eventually becoming the captain on Hooper’s executive staff in 2007.

White said the two men could debate an issue about the department but still emerge from the dispute as friends.

The two grew closer in retirement, as Hooper assisted White with maintaining the history of the police department. Whenever White found an old picture, Hooper was his first call for help.

“He was more than a police chief,” White said. “He was one of my best friends.”

Hooper is survived by his wife, Teresa, and his two sons.

The family will receive friends 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, May 18, at Memorial Park Funeral Home.

Funeral services will be at 3 p.m. Thursday, May 19, at Montgomery Memorial Baptist Church.