This blog post was written by Graduate Assistant Joe Wilson.
The political history of the United States is full of men and women who made a difference in their communities. Oftentimes the stories we remember are of leaders and politicians who worked on behalf of their constituents in full view of the public. However, these public figures would not have been able to accomplish as much as they did without the help and encouragement of their staffers and supporters who often worked just as hard for their fellow citizens without the thanks and recognition that the more high-profile leaders receive. One such person was Lola Hopper. She has dedicated her entire life to politics and public service, and her story shines a light on the people who make a difference without making a splash.
Lola Hopper was born near Houston, Texas and grew up there before moving to San Marcos prior to the start of high school. She was involved in high school student government, introducing a bill to desegregate the school’s extracurricular activities, including sports. The bill passed, and sports were desegregated after she graduated. Hopper attributes her passion for politics to the success of this early effort when she gained an understanding that one person could truly make a difference.
Lola dropped out of college in 1965 after one year to become the secretary for Terrell Blodgett, Administrative Assistant to Governor John B. Connally. She worked for Blodgett until 1969, when she became the office manager for State Senator Donald Adams. As Adams’s office manager, Lola ensured that the senator’s affairs ran smoothly, helping Adams keep in touch with his constituents’ needs so he could faithfully represent his district. After Adams left office in 1978, Lola worked for other elected officials, including State Senator Judith Zaffirini and Texas Attorneys General Jim Mattox and Dan Morales.
In addition to working for politicians and government offices throughout her career, Lola also volunteered for many political campaigns for Democratic Party candidates and supported many others with tee-shirts, yard signs, and bumper stickers. She collected many of these items over the years and donated them to Poage Library, including campaign materials for Presidential candidates George McGovern, Walter Mondale, and Bill Clinton, Senate and Congressional candidates Chet Edwards, Rick Noriega, and Jake Pickle, Texas Governor Ann Richards, and state leaders Wendy Davis, Chris Turner, and Sylvia Garcia. This impressive collection of campaign materials tells the story of political campaigning in Texas as well as provides a testament to Lola’s tireless political activism.
Some of the most unique materials Lola collected came from her appointment as a delegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Lola was a fervent Hillary Clinton supporter in the 2008 campaign, volunteering for her campaign on the very day Clinton announced her candidacy. Hopper worked to recruit veterans to attend a Clinton rally in Waco. As a result of her dedication, the Clinton campaign sent Lola to the Democratic National Convention as a delegate to cast her vote for Clinton. She wore a distinctive straw hat with Democrat and Clinton campaign buttons to the convention, visually representing her dedication to her party.
Lola Hopper has worked her entire life on behalf of the Democratic Party and the state of Texas. Although she was never famous or a known figure to most Texans, her work was important in Texas’s political story. Without people like Lola Hopper working tirelessly behind the scenes, leaders and politicians would never be able to accomplish what they do on behalf of their constituents.