Dr. Hopson left lasting legacy on Vicksburg and Warren County
With more than five decades in the medical field, Dr. Briggs Hopson Jr. touched countless lives and influenced those who followed.
He has been described as a gentleman, a family man, a mentor and a visionary.
On Saturday, Hopson died. He was 82.
“Briggs has been a leader in our medical community for almost 50 years,” Dr. Paul Pierce III said. “He has been very important to Vicksburg medicine and to me in particular.”
Pierce recalled the impact Hopson had on his decision to go into the medical field.
“I started out as an engineer and when I first started thinking about going to medical school, I went to Briggs to get his advice and he was encouraging,” Pierce said. “I started talking to Briggs on a Sunday and the next day Briggs called me up and wanted to know if I could come talk to Dr. Rowlett and I did.”
All three men had been part of the 412th Engineer Command and before becoming a doctor, Rowlett, too, had been an engineer.
“Dr. Rowlett was very encouraging to me, and so Briggs was important for me personally in assisting me in making up my mind to go back to school to be a doctor,” Pierce said.
Pierce also credited Hopson for the current hospital facility in Vicksburg.
“I think Briggs was the driving force behind that — almost 20 years ago —and that in my mind is his legacy,” Pierce said. “There were two big clinics competing with each other. Briggs had a large part to do in getting the clinics together so we could take two moderate size hospitals and have one large hospital.”
Leigh White, Merit Health River Region Marketing Director, agreed.
“Along with other key individuals, (Hopson) was instrumental in the vision, planning and oversight of the construction of our beautiful facility on Highway 61 North,” White said.
While practicing in the Vicksburg healthcare systems, White said, “Hopson’s tenure included his leadership as Chief of Surgery for Mercy Hospital, Chief of Staff for Parkview Regional Medical Center, member of the Board of Directors at Merit Health River Region and Vice President of Medical Affairs at Merit Health River Region.”
“He was well known as an accomplished surgeon and loved by the many patients who received his skilled, compassionate care,” White said. “It was truly an honor to know him and work with him. He will be truly missed by everyone at Merit Health River Region.”
In addition to his medical career, Hopson was also committed to the Miss Mississippi Corporation and the annual Miss Mississippi Competition and the Miss Mississippi Oustanding Teen Pageant.
“During his tenure as CEO and chairman of the board, he took Miss Mississippi to the next level of excellence and as a result, Miss Mississippi has had a long successful track record,” Miss Mississippi Board Chairman David Blackledge said. “During his time we had 13 preliminary swimsuit winners, three preliminary talent winners, eight top 10 finalists, nine runners-up to Miss America and two Miss Americas. What an accomplished record he had of his over 40 years of service to the Miss Mississippi Organization.”
Blackledge said Hopson spent hours working to obtain patron and scholarship money in an effort to assure all of the contestants, not just the winner or runners-up, would have funds to further their education and career.
“And in my opinion, that was one of his greatest accomplishments. He truly took pride in that because Miss Mississippi was one of the top cash scholarship givers in the Miss America Organization for many many years,” Blackledge said. “He wanted to see all of these young ladies do their best and further their education.”
Funds raised also help provide for award-winning Miss Mississippi productions.
“We had one of the best TV productions that you could have because of his efforts and obviously he worked very close to Pat (Hopson) to make that happen,” Blackledge said. “We laughed and kidded that Doc raised the money and Pat made it happen.”
On a personal note, Blackledge said, Hopson served as a mentor to him.
“Not only did he advise me all those years with the pageant,” Blackledge said. “He was a father figure to me after my dad had passed away. He certainly gave me advice and Godly wisdom to help me in my life.”
Pierce called Hopson a gentleman and someone who was easy to get along with.
“He conducted himself in a gentlemanly fashion and was a motivation to us all. He was also a good family man. All his children were excellent. He and Pat did something right,” Pierce said. “They raised wonderful children. All of them are good kids who live meaningful lives.
“Briggs Hopson meant a lot to people, particularly me,” Pierce said. “He will be missed.”
As dynamic as Hopson was in the medical field, and in being a key leader in the Miss Mississippi Corporation, his children remembered him for far more.
“My dad was a rock with his quiet presence and his unconditional love and the way that there was nothing we could do that would make him say anything but ‘I love you,’” Hopson’s youngest daughter, Kathy Ricks said. “He didn’t have to discipline us because we knew he loved us so much, we wanted to make him proud. I know he got mad at us, but I honestly can’t remember a time when he was, because everything he did, he always said, I love you no matter what and you truly knew it.”
Funeral arrangments were announced Tuesday by Fisher Funeral Home. Also, a drive-by visitation is planned for Friday afternoon along Dr. Briggs Hopson Boulevard in front of the Vicksburg Convention Center.