Hooper Matthews awarded Lifetime Achievement Award

Published 3:18 am Wednesday, February 2, 2005

By By Lee Weyhrich
Hooper S. Matthews arrived in Atmore by train in 1948; 57 years later he was awarded the lifetime achievement award from the Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce.
Hooper was surprised last Thursday night at the Chamber's annual banquet when Jimmy Crook, an area accountant, began talking about him.
"I was stunned to tell you the truth," Matthews said. "I really thought my son was getting an award; it never occurred to me it was me until Jimmy said, 'I've known him since I was a boy.'"
Matthews has known Crook since Crook was 10-years-old.
"He has been an important part of my life since childhood and continues to play an important part in the lives of my children," Crook said.
According to Crook, Matthews' greatest contribution to Atmore has been his involvement with Atmore's youth.
"What he has instilled in these young people is invaluable; that it takes hard work to accomplish something that is worth achieving," Crook said.
According to Kay Wagner, human resources director and secretary for Pepsi-Cola of Atmore, Matthews' company, his greatest contribution is his ability to take in everyone as if they were family.
"He has a personal interest in you as family rather than as just an employee," she said. "He is kind, he is fair, he is generous, but he is ever so serious; he wants the very best from us and in turn he expects the very best from us."
Ashley Mosley, an accounting clerk at Pepsi-Cola, agrees.
"I think he's a very honest, fair man and he always has an open door policy with his employees," she said. "He's very fair and very supportive of our accomplishments as employees."
Wagner believes that another of "Hoop's" strengths is his wisdom.
"He really is a very wise and down to earth guy," she said. "There's no phoniness in him at all; I'll be 65 soon and he's one of the wisest guys I know."
When Matthews moved here in 1948 from Nashville he was unsure if he wanted to live in Atmore or Mobile. Half a century later he's sure he made the right choice.
"I wouldn't trade Atmore for anywhere," Matthews said. "I'm just glad I can be a part of this community."
Atmore was a very different place in 1948 than it is now he said.
"The train let me off where the little station is now," he explained. "I had one little suitcase that was only half full of clothes. From a hotel that used to be downtown, I moved to the Lowery House located where The Atmore Advance is now. From there I moved into the Rankin house where the parking lot of the Methodist Church is now, I later moved into the H.T. James house. Room and board back then was $30."
Matthews bought the Pepsi-Cola building 38 years ago and began bottling colas.
"We used to bottle," he said. "We gave up bottling and started buying from Buffalo Rock and some others."
Crook said Matthews uses much of the money he earns to help local programs and organizations and that he contributes to many things no one else knows about.
"He sincerely wants to help others and their causes and does so quietly with little or no recognition of fanfare," Crook said.
Matthews said he really didn't know if he deserved this recognition and that he was just happy to do what he could in the community.
"I just really appreciate the privilege of being allowed to live here all these years," he said. "This town has certainly been good to me and I don't think there's any place I could have gone and loved life as much as I have here."
According to Crook, Matthews has served as president of A.C. Moore's PTA and the Board of Directors of Escambia Academy. He has endorsed and supported the Read America program and the Huxford Elementary Reading Initiative Program and has been a strong contributor and supporter of Scouting programs, the YMCA and drug and alcohol education in the county schools.
Crook went on to say that Matthews has been a member and past president of the Chamber of Commerce Board and helped recruit Masland Carpets. He has raised funds for schools in the Atmore area, the American Cancer Society, The American Heart Association, Williams Station Day, Mayfest, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians before they received federal funding, and the City of Atmore Police Department.
After all that Matthews was surprised to be given the lifetime achievement award.
"I think it came as a little shock to him, but I think it was very rewarding to him," Mosley said.
Matthews isn't going to stop his work in the community anytime soon and he sees a bright future for Atmore.
"It's got a lot of potential," he said. "I wouldn't be surprised if the hurricane wasn't a blessing for us."
He went on to say that Atmore seems to be growing faster and doing better economically since the Hurricane than it did before.
He has every intention of helping with that growth.

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