East Coast

1. EASTON, PA (1927 to 1929 / 1932 to 1944):

Leo Bruce Hopewell was born in Easton, PA to Leo Bruce Hopewell, Sr. and Ruth Johnston Hopewell on December 26th. Both his mother and father graduated from Storer College in West Virginia. His father received his BS in science. In addition to his academic acumen he was a football, track & field and tennis star.

His father went on to receive his MS degree in science from Howard University, Washington, DC. While there, his classmate and became best friend was renowned arranger and composer Fletcher Henderson. It was through this friendship that Fletcher became Bruce’s godfather.

The Fletcher Henderson Orchestra featured the likes of Louis Armstrong, and Bud Johnson, to name a few. Fletcher Henderson mentored and made famous Benny Goodman, legendary King of Swing and renowned orchestra, featuring Lionel Hampton, Gene Krupa, Teddy Wilson, Anita O’Day.

A little known fact is that Fletcher Henderson stole musicians from the Chick Webb Orchestra. Ella Fitzgerald made Chick Webb famous with her with her “A Tisket A Tasket” circa 1938, #1 on the National Hit Parade favorite for years.

Bruce’s mother, a classically trained pianist, soloist, concert performer often performing at Town Hall in NYC and locally with famed Negro vocalists of the day.

Grandmother, Gertrude Johnston resided with the Hopewell’s while in their 3-story, 17-room home at 448 Ferry Street in Easton. They were both originally from Charleston, South Carolina. Gertrude Johnston was the first black graduate of Easton High School in 1895. She went on to become the National President of the Eastern Star Association, which was feminine branch of the Mason’s Lodge, a world wide fraternal organization.

 

  1. CHICAGO (1929 to 1932): Younger brother and sister, Alan Claude and Louise, were born in Chicago while their father furthered his educational pursuits and aspirations as a pre-med student at the University of Chicago before he succumbed to tuberculosis, tragically and prematurely, which the medical profession had not discovered the cure for this disease at that time. The result was Ruth and the three children moved back to Easton, PA rejoining her family.

 

  1. Brooklyn (1944 to 1958): In 1944, Bruce, his mother (Ruth Hopewell), brother (Alan), and sister (Louise) moved from Easton, PA to Brooklyn. He graduated from Boy’s High School in June 1945. While in Brooklyn, he met and became personal friends with many up and coming jazz luminaries such as: Randy Weston, Bud Powell, Max Roach, Cecil Payne, Wynton Kelly, Miles Davis, Bill Pemberton, Charlie Parker amongst others.

 

In 1946, Bruce’s first job was as a part-time postal clerk at the U.S. Post Office Main Office in NYC, where he worked for five years, while attending CCNY Baruch College Branch at night.

 

In addition to working at the Post Office, from 1948 to 1953, Bruce worked for the NYC Housing Authority, and advanced from Mail Clerk to Senior Payroll Accountant.

 

1953 to 1968: Mr. Hopewell worked for the NY Department of Taxation and Finance. He served as a senior tax auditor for the NY State Tax Commission auditing individual, businesses, and corporations in NYS.