Community mourns local PepsiCola owner
Published 3:27 pm Wednesday, October 11, 2006
By By Adam Prestridge – special to the standard
Pepsi delivery trucks continued to make their routine rounds last week despite the shocking news that owner Hooper W. Matthews Jr. died Friday.
Business continued like any other day and that's how friends and employees said Matthews would have wanted it.
Matthews, owner of Pepsi Cola Company of Atmore since 1967, died in his sleep Friday morning from what is believed to be natural causes. He was 78 years old.
Late Friday afternoon, the news of Matthews' death was still surreal to those who admired him as not only a businessman, but as a friend and confidant.
Matthews arrived in Atmore by train in 1948 and according to close friends he has had Atmore in his best interests since stepping foot on the tracks that make Atmore home to so many. Just last year, he was the recipient of the Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce's Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of all that he had done for this small town.
Crook, who nominated Matthews for the honor, has been a close friend with the well-known businessman since he was 10 years old. Just as he stated prior to presenting the award, he continues to believe that Matthews' greatest contribution to Atmore was his work with its youth.
Crook also said that Matthews was a straight shooter.
Atmore Mayor Howard Shell said having a businessman in town like Matthews was an asset to the community as a whole and that it his shoes will be hard to fill.
Shell said the news of “Big Hoop's” death was shocking.
When Matthews moved to Atmore in 1948 from Nashville he was unsure if he wanted to live in Atmore or Mobile. During an interview, half a century later, he stated that he was sure he made the right choice.
Matthews said during the interview that the train let him off where the “little station is now.” He said that all he had was a little suitcase that was only half full of clothes. He stayed in a hotel that used to be downtown before moving to the Lowery House located where The Atmore Advance is now.
From there, he moved into the Rankin house where the parking lot of the Methodist Church is now and later moved into the H.T. James house.
Matthews later bought the Pepsi Cola Bottling Company building and began bottling colas. Back then Pepsi of Atmore used to bottle, but gave that up and started buying from Buffalo Rock and other plants.
Nall reflected back on the time when he started work for Matthews. He said it was in August of 1967, just two months following Matthews' purchase of the facility from the Pipkin family.
Nall went on to add that the future of Pepsi Cola of Atmore would continue to shine.
Shell agreed and believes Matthews' strong family values would prevail.
Crook said Matthews was a registered forester, has been involved in the timber business all of his life and had a large land holding.
Shell added that his efforts in conservation also made him well known in the forestry business.
According to Crook, Matthews served as president of A.C. Moore's PTA and the Board of Directors of Escambia Academy. He also endorsed and supported the Read America program and the Huxford Elementary Reading Initiative Program and was a strong contributor and supporter of Scouting programs, the YMCA and drug and alcohol education in the county schools.