Claude Hopper: Into His presence with singing

Editor’s note: This information was published in the April 2020 issue of Heartfelt Magazine, CHM’s monthly magazine that provides CHM membership-related tips and tricks, medical advice from doctors, testimonies from CHM members, and more. Please refer to the CHM Guidelines and applicable web pages for the most up-to-date information regarding CHM membership, sharing eligibility, and ministry news.

From becoming a believer in a home-church revival and emerging from baptism in Dalton’s Fish Pond, Claude Hopper has been singing Jesus’s praises, literally.

Claude, a Christian Healthcare Ministries board member, is founder and patriarch of The Hoppers, one of Southern Gospel music’s best-known singing groups. The Hoppers in 2012 were inducted into the Gospel Music Association (GMA) Hall of Fame. They have been named Singing News’ favorite mixed vocal group 12 times. Their awards and notable performances around the world would fill a book.

Originally formed in 1957, The Hoppers are today made up of Claude and his wife, Connie; son Dean and his wife, Kim; son Mike; and granddaughter Karlye.

If you ask Claude about memorable concert moments, the answer isn’t about where they performed or for whom. It’s about reaching someone’s soul.

“In the late 1970s, a man in a baseball cap, who I’d never seen before and haven’t seen since, came up to me at the Suwannee River Sing,” Claude says. “He announced that because of my family’s ministry, he had given his heart to God in a ballfield somewhere in Mississippi.

“That was the first time I remember hearing anything so amazing, and I can recall it like it was yesterday.”

Claude was born to Archer and Dossie (Pyrtle) Hopper in Rockingham County, N.C. “All 11 of us kids were born at home and our cabin still sits on my property,” he says. His Christian life started when he sought salvation during a small revival in his home church in Madison, after which he was baptized in the nearby pond.

“My mother set an incredible example for me and my 10 brothers and sisters,” he says. “God always shone through her, and I wanted what she had. My mama is the reason I know who Jesus is, and I can thank her example for my desire to know Him better. I wouldn’t exchange anything for this privilege of seeing God work in the lives of others.”

His musical interest began after attending his first Southern Gospel music concert in Winston-Salem, N.C. Headlining were the Blackwood Brothers, the Speer Family and the Statesmen.

“I was hooked,” he says. “I previously wanted to be a pilot, but I brought my $7 guitar to my mama’s kitchen table and formed the Hopper Brothers Quartet, made up of me and four of my seven brothers.”

He’d borrowed money from his older sister to attend college, but just short of graduation, the money ran out and his letter arrived informing him he was being drafted into the U.S. Army. “God”, he says, “had His own timing.”

The Hoppers have kept a memorable schedule from 1957, when the original version of The Hoppers made their debut, to the early 1970s, when the group began full-time ministry, until today.

“My most memorable concert is due to Bill Gaither,” Claude says. “There were 45,000 people at the Georgia Dome that hot, Atlanta afternoon and we still had to get back to N.C. to perform later that day at an event called “Singing in the Smokies.” My wife, Connie, and the late Shannon Childress arranged our version of “Shoutin’ Time,” and we sang it no less than eight times that day.”

Connie, a cancer survivor, is herself a member of the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame. She possesses, Claude says, “a calming, understanding spirit that I never experienced before she came into my life; she shows the love of God, and her wisdom is unmatched.”

Claude continually promotes Southern Gospel music. One way he’s done this is by serving since 1982 on the board of the National Quartet Convention. He also serves as its president. The Hoppers were inducted into the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame, the Southern Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame and the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame. Claude also founded the Hopper Heritage Foundation, which helps young people who want to further their education but come from backgrounds that present challenges to meeting their goals.

His CHM board membership, he says, helps to fulfill a lifelong goal of enabling people to care for themselves and others, and to prepare for the future.

Says Claude, “Christian Healthcare Ministries is literally bringing my more than 50-year-old dreams into fruition.”

(More information about The Hoppers is on their website, as is their schedule of upcoming concerts: thehoppers.com/calendar-2/).

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