Prominent lobbyist and former Florida Supreme Court justice Wade Hopping died today from complications from a stroke and esophageal cancer.
Hopping died a day before his 78th birthday and on the 30th anniversary of founding the Tallahassee law firm Hopping Green and Sams.
Hopping served as a Cabinet aide to Gov. Claude Kirk, who appointed him to fill an opening on the Supreme Court in 1968 but he lost reelection the following year. Supreme Court justices are now appointed by the governor and remain in on the bench by a merit vote.
Kirk, the first Republican governor elected since Reconstruction, credited Hopping and environmentalist Nathaniel Reed with helping to create both the state and national environmental regulatory agencies.
“I didn’t know how to spell conservation or environment but we learned about it,” Kirk, who lives in West Palm Beach, said. “Wade was in the middle of all of that with Nat Reed. With Wade’s help and Nat’s help we got (former President) Nixon to create the President’s Council on the Environment.” The council was the basis of what later became the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Kirk said.
The white-haired, white-bearded lobbyist was an institution in the halls of the Florida Capitol throughout his thirty years of working on behalf of businesses including Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the Sugarcane Growers Cooperative of Florida and the Florida Marine Industries Association.
Recently, Hopping was instrumental in the state’s $310 million purchase of the 74,000-acre Babcock Ranch Preservation Area in Southwest Florida. The 2006 deal was the largest conservation lands purchase in Florida history.
He frequently drew swords with environmentalists but was a willing and capable compromiser, said Audubon of Florida policy director Eric Draper, who frequently worked against Hopping in issues before the legislature.
“Wade has been a fixture at the capitol for as long as I can remember. He was always pushing firmly with his clients’ agenda but always in a friendly and good-humored way. He was one of the business lobbyists that conservationists were most willing to work,” said Draper, who is running for Agriculture Commissioner. “It’s hard to imagine working on environmental issues without him on the other side.”
Hopping is survived by his wife of 38 years, Mary Hopping of Tallahassee. He is also survived by children Hank and Margaret Hopping of Chattanooga, Jud and Jackie Hopping of Fort Lauderdale, Kiff and Lynn Mendoza of Tallahassee, and Beth Mendoza and Maureen Murphy of Atlanta.
A funeral service is scheduled Thursday at the Faith Presbyterian Church in Tallahassee.