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Ernest Hooper, Times Columnist/East Hillsborough Bureau Chief

Ernest Hooper

Ernest Hooper is the East Hillsborough Bureau chief and columnist at the Tampa Bay Times. Hooper joined the Times in 1992 and has worked as a prep sports writer and editor, TV/radio sports columnist, NFL writer, news columnist and unofficial ambassador, representing the Times as an emcee, judge or keynote speaker at hundreds of nonprofit events and civic functions. Hooper added the role of East Hillsborough Bureau chief in 2012. He oversees news content for the Times' regional edition east of Tampa, the SouthShore & Brandon Times, and writes two columns a week. His commentaries about family, community issues and political perspectives have helped Hooper connect with readers over the years, but he's probably best known for his signature tagline: That's all I'm saying.

Phone: (813) 661-2440


  1. Hooper: All of the festival's music acts deserve a good audience


    Florida Strawberry Festival general manager Paul Davis had long held Patti LaBelle on his wish list of headline entertainment.

    And just to make sure the soulful LaBelle still had the chops to deliver, he attended one of her recent shows and marveled over a three-hour performance that belied the diva's 72 years.

    The festival's brand rests on appearances by big stars like LaBelle, Rascal Flatts, Little Big Town and Jennifer Nettles. But did you know Davis and his staff invest as much time in choosing the acts that perform beyond the main Wish Farms Soundstage....

    Dennis Lee and his band will be performing daily at noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. in the Publix Showcase Tent.
  2. Hooper: Wise words not lost in works of folk art matriarch

    Human Interest

    Ruby C. Williams, Florida's folk art matriarch, regaled an audience of well-wishers at an Athena Society event in Bealsville's historic Glover School.

    Williams, who keeps her age a closely guarded secret, shared her thoughts on being the great-great-granddaughter of one of the 12 founders of Bealsville, a community south of Plant City founded 152 years ago by former slaves. She spoke of her love of the land, her adoration for farming and the quaint appeal of her remarkable paintings....

  3. Hooper: Bethune portrayal underscores importance of Black History Month


    She stepped up to the stage after the dynamic speaker shared her thoughts on education, on race, on creating one of Florida's most prestigious historically black colleges.

    She looked the speaker in the eyes, embraced her and sweetly said, "Hello, grandmother." And in that moment, Ersula Odom's ongoing portrayal of Mary McLeod Bethune received its most significant endorsement — from the granddaughter of the legendary educator....

    Evelyn Bethune, the granddaughter of legendary educator and activist Mary McLeod Bethune, poses with Ersula Odom and Ashley Robertson, curator/director of the Mary McLeod Bethune Foundation. Odom portrays Mary McLeod Bethune and received an endorsement from both Bethune and Robertson after a recent performance in Daytona Beach.
  4. Hooper: Officials should ride the bus to get a look at transit flaws

    Human Interest

    Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist made a stunning admission in a well-reported story on Tampa Bay's transportation woes by Tampa Bay Times staff writers Caitlin Johnston and Eli Zhang.

    Crist said he didn't realize HART stands as one of the most poorly funded transit systems in the nation until a Times reporter told him. Amazing. First of all, it's his job to know. Second, the shortcomings of the system become apparent to anyone who spends even a single day using the system to get to work....

  5. There's no room for mistakes in tourism funding

    Human Interest

    It's a familiar Aesop's Fables, but it appears Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran has never read The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs.

    Corcoran, perhaps to boost his name recognition for a gubernatorial run, continues to make headlines in his quest to withdraw state funding from Visit Florida. Even more amazing, Rep. Shawn Harrison, R-Tampa, went against his area's own tourism interest in a House subcommittee vote last week....

  6. New executive director looks to 'Flood' fair with new memories

    Human Interest

    Cheryl Flood had to be the first one — the first one — to ride the new LED Giant Slide at the Florida State Fair. It's her favorite. Flood brought that same enthusiasm to her new role as executive director of the Florida State Fair. Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam placed Flood, then the agricultural department's director of external affairs, in the role on an interim basis in March of 2016 after the abrupt resignation of then executive director Chuck Pesano....

    Florida State Fair executive director Cheryl Flood grew up on a ranch in Polk County and as a teen showed cattle at the Florida State Fair for the Frostproof High School FFA chapter.
  7. Hooper: Finding the cure in a Riverwalk ramble


    The lazy attitude that has betrayed me for so many years makes one last plea.

    It's overcast and a bit dreary. You're just getting over a cold. Let's just ride around and listen to Luther.

    I am undaunted. Spurred by Luther Vandross' ever chipper Glow of Love, I'm compelled to flee the ordinary confines of my car, and seek the extraordinary that awaits on the Tampa Riverwalk. I can't resist the chance to soak in the solace, to explore....

    There's a lot to enjoy along the Riverwalk even when you don't know what you're looking for. [LUIS SANTANA   |   Times]
  8. Hooper: To redevelop Midtown, think beyond grocery stores

    Human Interest

    The mistakes surrounding the failure of Tangerine Plaza appear to be complex and multiple, but they can't deter the city's efforts to rejuvenate Midtown, the low-income, predominantly black community south of downtown St. Petersburg.

    The best redevelopment efforts in Tampa Bay have started organically and then received boosts from government. Successful entrepreneurs, not government, have led the way. And it might be best to start with increasing the area's gainfully employed instead of simply adding grocery stores....

  9. Celebrity Paul Anthony looks to boost Moffitt's African-American outreach


    TAMPA — Whether performing one of his 1980s hits on stage, starring in the urban classic movie House Party or strutting the red carpet as a Grammy-winning producer, Paul Anthony — co-founder of the music group Full Force — always arrived on the scene looking fit and buff.

    So it came as a shock to his family and friends, many of whom rank among today's best-known celebrities, when doctors diagnosed Anthony with mantle cell lymphoma in 2006. Anthony, however, set aside pity and sorrow for a powerful approach of mind, body and spirit....

    Music producer and artist Paul Anthony poses with actress Vivica A. Fox and H. Lee Moffitt, founder of the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, during a Jan. 17 event at the Tampa Museum of Art. [Courtesy of H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center]
  10. Brandon business owners inspire generosity in customers

    Human Interest

    Tammy and Paul Holmberg put the give in giveaway.

    The Holmbergs, longtime ambassadors of generosity in the Brandon area, opened a Chick-fil-A in Valrico on Jan. 26, and as with any new Chick-fil-A, residents camped out 24 hours before the opening because the first 100 customers receive free meals for a year.

    This time, they gave as much as they received. Led by Tammy Holmberg, the customers boxed up lunch for Brandon's Meals on Wheels program, packaged non-perishable food for Feeding Children Everywhere and helped deliver dinner to A Kid's Place....

    Jana Broder of Drum Magic led a drumline for the 100-plus people who camped out to get a year worth of Chick-fil-A meals at the new Chick-fil-A at 2010 Bloomingdale Ave in Valrico. Photo courtesy of Cindy Sofarelli
  11. Hooper: Let's come together no matter who wins the election

    Human Interest

    It won't be time for gloating or glaring. It won't be time for talk of moving to Canada or forecasting the end of times.

    No matter who wins the presidential election Tuesday, we must be prepared to move forward by seeking common ground and promoting healing.

    Someone just scoffed.

    I recognize I'm projecting a thought rooted more in idealism than reality. I recognize that it may be more difficult than ever to bring the nation together after this election....

  12. Hooper: Empathy should be the response to bigotry

    Human Interest

    Temple Terrace City Manager Charles W. Stephenson said Tuesday at a City Council meeting that it's unfortunate a bigot-laced anonymous letter regarding council candidate Wael Odeh has received so much attention.

    I couldn't disagree more. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., once said, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that."

    Someone decided to target the candidacy of Odeh, a Muslim, with a typed letter distributed in residential mailboxes that smeared him for his beliefs and heritage. It brought to light, again, the Islamophobia the Muslim community deals with on a regular basis....

    Wael Odeh
  13. Glazer daughter working to strengthen team's ties to community


    From her office, which includes a panoramic view of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice facility, Darcie Glazer Kassewitz can watch all the players as they prepare for games.

    On this day, however, with the fields sitting quiet, she turns her focus to a recent encounter with children at the Jackson Heights NFL YET Center. Kassewitz, 48, begins to choke up as she reflects on what it meant — to her, to the players and team officials who were there, and especially to the kids they worked with. ...

    Darcie Glazer Kassewitz has been working hard to strengthen the team’s bonds with a broad range of Tampa Bay residents.
  14. Hooper: Don't let troubling political landscape dissuade you from voting

    Human Interest

    A friend called recently, so filled with dismay about the presidential election that she was considering not voting.

    Yet it has never been more important to engage in the political process. It has never been more important to believe in our nation, its founding principles and its enduring processes.

    The troubling times have shaken the faith some have in our government, and its trail of gridlock failures certainly fuels a frustration. But frustrations can't translate to paralyzing fears or overwhelming indifference. ...

  15. Sunday Conversation: She turned her bout with domestic violence into a triumph

    Human Interest

    Jill Assalti once succeeded as a film and television actor before moving on to a career in medical sales. She thrived in corporate America, earning honors as top salesperson, but she operated in that world with a missing ingredient. "I missed the artist in me," Assalti said.

    Now she works as a motivational speaker (, calling upon the public speaking skills she honed as an actor to deliver uplifting messages about doing something every day that puts a smile on your face — instead of showing up for work feeling like it's something you have to do, not something you want to do....

    Jill Assalti ( is a motivational speaker who will deliver the keynote address at the Spring’s annual Gift of Peace Luncheon on Wednesday (Oct. 26).