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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: Florida's budget surplus might be worth saving, not spending

    Human Interest

    The 2015 Florida legislative session begins Tuesday with lawmakers fretting that they can't match all the tax cuts and increased spending that Gov. Rick Scott wants to deliver.

    The state enjoys a surplus, but wisdom and caution seem to be in order. The Great Recession remains in the rearview mirror and the prudent call might be to fill rainy-day coffers and offer a lot less than $700 million in tax cuts. That's one definition of being conservative. … ...

  2. Nathan's Famous hot dog eating contest comes to Plant City's Strawberry Festival

    Human Interest


    It's sport, spectacle and awe.

    It's simple in theory and difficult in practice.

    It's also kind of gross.

    It's competitive eating, and no one can say for certain why it's a growing fascination with the American public, but when the Florida Strawberry Festival hosts a Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest at 6 p.m. Sunday, it's certain to draw competitors hoping to eat their way into the famed July 4 world championship at Coney Island. And it's certain to draw a crowd....

    Champion competitive eater Joey Chestnut.
  3. Boys and Girls Club transforms lives

    Human Interest

    Kassindjaa Montague's academic success had taken a dreadful turn.

    She didn't attend class for two months. She transferred to another high school for the rest of her freshman year.

    She returned to her old school as a sophomore — only to find more trouble.

    But her mother, Kadessa Lindsey, didn't quite know why her daughter's promise was shrinking.

    Finally, Kassindjaa found solace at the Ridgecrest Boys & Girls Club in 2013. Club director Dre Nix built a rapport with Kassindjaa....

    Kassindjaa Montague is the Boys & Girls Club’s Youth of the Year.
  4. Spoto community rallies behind girl who suffered traumatic brain injury


    Less than a day after they learned their friend was in the hospital, they organized.

    Just hours after word got out that she suffered a traumatic brain injury, they gathered.

    And in the agonizing moments after a freak car accident on the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway left 18-year-old Tyra Janelle Brown fighting for her life, they prayed.

    Simple word of mouth led nearly three-quarters of the 1,400-plus students at Spoto High to gather around the flag pole in the school's courtyard on that Monday morning last month. Right after third period, they pulled together in a solemn show of love and concern....

    Tyra Janelle Brown
  5. Hooper: Don't judge all teachers by a handful of bad apples

    Human Interest

    At St. Petersburg High, a teacher sparked a major problem by naming students on his door under the title, "terrorist list."

    A Turkey Creek Middle School teacher allegedly had sex with her 15-year-old student.

    And everywhere, good teachers cringe and wonder why the stories of their tireless dedication can't get more attention from the media. I know because a teacher and an administrator told me just that last week....

  6. Hooper: Celebrate Black History Month's heroes of today


    Wali S. Shabazz walked through the Middleton High Library before a young group of African-American males, showing each a framed, faded, yellow newspaper ad touting that slaves were to be "sold and let."

    The goal is to teach the teens how far blacks have come, to help them understand that their heritage goes beyond what Shabazz calls, "gangsterism."

    "The whole issue of being involved in negative criminal behavior in our community, that's a morals issue, that's a values issue, that's a misconception of what they think is black life," Shabazz said. "So, we have to correct their thinking as it relates to their history, their culture and their values."...

  7. New book rekindles memories of Tampa's African-American community

    Human Interest

    Richedean Hills-Ackbar spotted a photo of her uncle, Frank Stewart, in Ersula Knox Odom's new book, African-Americans of Tampa.

    So she sat down with him and he named 20 or 30 people he spotted in the book, a collection of archival photos.

    "They had such a great time," Odom explained. "The sad thing, and the joyful thing, is that was the last time she saw her Uncle Frank."

    This is the magic of Odom's book, which contains photos from the famed Burgert Brothers collection at the Hillsborough County Public Library and images given to her by local residents. Published as part of a historical series by Arcadia Publishing, its photos tell some of the stories that make up the community's rich history....

  8. Hooper: WEDU Be More Awards should inspire us to act

    Human Interest

    Kudos to young Hailey Scheinman, who made one of the most inspiring appearances at the inspiring WEDU Be More Awards last week.

    Hailey, 10, a 2013 winner, shared without a hint of nervousness how her nonprofit, Livy's Hope, was born out of a desire to care for her twin sister, Livy, who has epilepsy. It focuses on supporting kids with medical needs. I can't help but marvel at youths who handle adversity with more courage than some adults. …...

  9. Hooper: TV station's demotion of reporters raises questions of racial diversity

    Human Interest

    It's not surprising that the Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists questioned the decision of WFLA-Ch. 8 to demote African-American reporters Rod Carter and Josh Thomas with a stern letter it sent to the station last week.

    The station shifted Carter from morning co-anchor to weekend co-anchor and moved Thomas from weekend anchor to reporter, but the decision raises larger issues about the overall racial makeup and diversity of anchors, reporters and technical personnel in this TV market....

  10. Hooper: Daughter's light inspires nonprofit for special needs children


    Laura Dile watched in amazement as her daughter Leah found a way to connect with children at a special summer camp for kids with cognitive and physical disabilities.

    She displayed an innate ability to touch them, to get them to participate in activities and go beyond their parents' expectations.

    "The kids were just attracted to her," Dile recalled this week. "She returned to the camp the next year and worked as the arts and crafts counselors. She just took to the kids. She understood them. ...

    Laura Dile, right, and her daughter Leah, 19.
  11. Hooper: Forbes ranks Tampa Bay's Hispanic, African-American prosperity

    Human Interest

    Looking at homeownership, entrepreneurship and median household income, Forbes separately ranked America's 52 largest metropolitan areas for where African-Americans and Hispanics are doing best economically.

    On the Hispanic list, Tampa Bay ranked 12th, ahead of Orlando and Miami, but behind Jacksonville, which ranked No. 1. I thought Tampa Bay would have been behind Miami. On the African-American list, Tampa ranked 21st behind Orlando, Miami and Jacksonville....

  12. Hooper: A governing board might be just what DCF needs

    Human Interest

    In the 20 months that Kelley Parris has served as executive director of the Children's Board of Hillsborough County, three people have led the state's Department of Children and Families.

    Imagine the dysfunction of a football program with three coaches in 20 months.

    Parris, the ex-director of the Alabama Department of Child Abuse Prevention, said she thinks current DCF boss Mike Carroll is doing a good job, but worries the constant changes have hurt DCF. Her solution? A governing board to oversee DCF and provide a specific focus....

  13. Renee Vaughn wins prestigious leadership award

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — Eileen Sweeney, the Buccaneers' director of community relations, was still a relative newcomer when she met Renée Vaughn in late 2012.

    Sweeney needed a guide and she found one in Vaughn, president of the Williams Consulting Group and chairwoman of the Leadership Tampa 2014 Class.

    "She knows how the city works and she's willing to share that perspective," said Sweeney, a member of the 2014 class. "She's made a difference in my work and personal life and I don't know where I would be without her guidance."...

    Renée Vaughn, president of Williams Consulting Group, is this year’s recipient.
  14. Hooper: MaryEllen Elia ouster was decided on Nov. 4


    The Hillsborough County School Board taught a civics lesson with its dismissal of superintendent MaryEllen Elia.

    The vote to terminate Elia occurred Tuesday, but the decision actually came on Election Day.

    When Sally Harris pulled off one of the more stunning victories in the history of county politics by knocking off well-funded Michelle Shimberg in the District 2 school board race, Elia's fate was sealed....

    [EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
Hillsborough County school superintendent MaryEllen Elia listens to a supporter at the meeting Tuesday, Jan. 20. The board voted to fire Elia.
  15. Hooper: On MLK Jr. Day, speaker urges all to fight for justice

    Human Interest

    Of all the quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — and there are many — one resonates with me more than any other.

    "An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

    Nationally syndicated radio host Joe Madison surprised Monday by not using the King quote, because he certainly spoke of modern injustices in his keynote address at the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast, the Tampa Organization of Black Affairs' 35th annual breakfast....