Richard Hopkins

Richard Hopkins, a community leader and founder of DeLand's Martin Luther King Jr. committee.

Richard Hopkins was a dedicated member of the DeLand community and a founding member of the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee.

Born in 1951, Hopkins spent his life in DeLand as a softball player for the DeLand Blackhawks, as an employee with the Parks and Recreation Department, and as a father.

“He was a strong community leader,” Tameka Hopkins, Richard Hopkins’ daughter, told The Beacon. “He worked tirelessly for 31 years without having any vacation; he never took time off, never called out sick. He was what you would call an exemplary employee for the City of DeLand.”

With the Parks and Recreation Department, Hopkins worked to beautify parks and fields in the heart of DeLand. Today, the baseball shed in Melching Field at Conrad Park is dedicated to him.

Richard Hopkins shed

IMMORTALIZED AT MELCHING FIELD — The baseball shed at Melching Field at Conrad Park is dedicated to Richard Hopkins, who worked in the DeLand Parks and Recreation Department for more than 30 years. Hopkins worked to keep areas like Earl Brown Park, Spec Martin Municipal Stadium and Melching Field at Conrad Park clean and looking their best. He is still remembered fondly by city employees who worked with him. DeLand Mayor Bob Apgar told The Beacon Hopkins was a “tireless worker” who loved his job. Parks and Recreation Director Rick Hall said he was happy to see Hopkins being recognized. “He was a good guy, and one of the hardest workers I’ve ever been around,” Hall said. “He put in tons of hours and always with a smile on his face.”

In the 1980s, Richard Hopkins played an instrumental role in establishing the now-traditions of celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on and around King’s birthday. While not initially credited as a founder of the MLK Jr. Celebration Committee, Hopkins played a key role.

“At the time, it wasn’t popular; we didn’t want Richard’s job to be in jeopardy,” Brenda Cusack, a fellow founding member, told The Beacon. “We credit Richard because he was the one that initiated the idea.”

The celebrations for King, including a march and a breakfast at Stetson University, are enjoyed annually by the community, but none more than Tameka Hopkins.

“Even though I was young, I looked forward to Martin Luther King Jr. Day,” she said. “We would wake up early and go to Stetson for breakfast.”

Richard Hopkins died in 2003, but he is remembered fondly by his family and those he worked with. His daughter said she was so happy to see him among the DeLand Black History Month honorees.

“When I first saw it, I just teared up. I’m so grateful,” Tameka Hopkins said. “I was just so happy to see my dad. I looked up and said ‘Daddy, you look good up there.’ I took a selfie with him.”