Mississippi Gaming Commission chair and longtime Gulfport attorney Al Hopkins died Sunday evening, the commission’s office confirmed Monday.
Hopkins, who would have turned 82 on Tuesday, has chaired the commission since 2015, and was in his third term after being reconfirmed last year by the state Senate.
A former assistant adjutant general of the Mississippi National Guard, Hopkins retired from the military with the rank of major general. He founded his own law firm, Hopkins, Barvié & Hopkins, in 1977 in Gulfport and served for 13 years as chief judge of the Court of Military Appeals. He was a 1963 graduate of Delta State University, receiving bachelor’s degrees in history and English. In 1965 he received his juris doctorate from the University of Mississippi School of Law. He later received a bachelor’s degree in biblical studies from William Carey University.
Hopkins was a well-known member of many organizations on the Gulf Coast, including Girl Scouts of Gulf Pines Council, the Spanish Trail Council of the Boy Scouts of America, the Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce and the Harrison County Tourism Commission, of which he was a past president. He was also a 32nd degree mason and a life-member of the National Rifle Association.
An active member of First Baptist Church of Gulfport, Hopkins served as a deacon and taught Sunday school.
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He is survived by his wife Ruth and their two children.
Hopkins chaired the commission during a time of significant change for the gambling industry, with many states easing rules on when and where gambling can take place and legalizing sports betting. In Mississippi, currently, sports betting must take place on casino property. A bill that passed the state House earlier this session would create a taskforce to study mobile sports betting. The executive director of the gaming commission, or someone he appoints, would serve on that taskforce if the bill becomes law.
After two relatively routine confirmations, Hopkins faced some opposition last year for not committing to keeping rules on casino locations the same. Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson, who chairs the senate gaming committee, had opposed Hopkins after voting for him in the previous confirmation, leading to a social media fight with Republican Gov. Tate Reeves. Despite Blount’s opposition, the confirmation did reach the chamber floor and was supported by all-but eight senators.