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Hooper, Walter.


Biographical Statement

Born on March 27, 1931, Walter McGehee Hooper (known as "Coot" to friends and family) grew up in Reidsville, North Carolina. He was the third child of five born to Arch Boyd Hooper, a self-employed plumber, and Madge Kemp Hooper. Hooper attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, earning bachelor's (1954) and master's (1958) degrees in education. He served in the U.S. Army for two years and reentered the university as a graduate student in education in 1957. He taught elementary school in Chapel Hill during the academic year 1956-57. In 1957 he entered the Virginia Episcopal Seminary and was admitted as a candidate for holy orders on March 16, 1959. However, Hooper dropped himself from candidacy on September 8, 1959, because he did not approve of the seminary's practice of psychological evaluations and counseling. After leaving the seminary, Hooper taught at a boys boarding school, Christ School, in Arden, North Carolina, from 1959 until 1961.

In 1961 he left Christ School and moved to Lexington, Kentucky, and lived with a family of a recent student. There, Hooper decided to pursue a course of study in literature at the University of Kentucky. He discussed with Robert O. Evans, a professor at the university, the possibility of studying and writing a dissertation on C.S. Lewis. According to university records, Hooper never enrolled at Kentucky, although he did attend Evans’ class on modern British authors in the spring of 1963.

After having exchanged several short letters with Lewis between 1954 and 1962, Hooper first met Lewis on June 7, 1963. This was undoubtedly a watershed event in Hooper’s life. Hooper (also known as “Hoot”) was in England attending a summer course at Exeter College, Oxford, from July 1 to August 9. During Lewis’s August convalescence from a heart attack, Hooper assisted Lewis with correspondence and other duties as Warren was away. He returned to Kentucky in late August 1963, planning to visit Lewis during the 1964 vacation. However, Lewis’s death in November altered that plan. Instead, he moved to England in January 1964 to help Owen Barfield manage the Lewis literary estate, and that became his lifetime career. His first task was editing Lewis’s poems for a 1964 book. He has gone on to edit and publish much of Lewis’s work, including collections of letters and essays, and a biography on Lewis co-authored with Roger Lancelyn Green.

In addition to his work with the literary estate, Hooper was ordained a deacon on September 27, 1964, by the Bishop of Oxford acting on behalf of the Bishop of Lexington, Kentucky. He served as deacon at Holy Trinity Church in Headington Quarry – the church where Lewis had worshipped before his death – from September 27, 1964, until June 27, 1965. He remained a part-time cleric for more than two decades, also serving as chaplain of two Oxford Colleges, Jesus and Wadham, and as an assistant rector of the church of St. Mary Magdalene in Oxford. In 1988 he renounced the Episcopal and Anglican priesthood and joined the Roman Catholic Church as a layman.

In 1980, some of his personal papers and correspondence went to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and are now housed there in the Southern Historical Collection in Wilson Library.

Walter died on December 7, 2020 in Oxford, England.

Adapted from the C.S. Lewis Readers' Encyclopedia. Edited by Jeffrey D. Schultz and John G. West Jr. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998; and from the Walter Hooper Papers finding aid in the Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (collection number: 04236).

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Schofield Correspondence Archive

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: Wade-A-6 through 7
Abstract This archive is a collection of correspondence from the files of Stephen Schofield, C.S. Lewis scholar and editor of the "Canadian C.S. Lewis Journal." It contains correspondence between Stephen Schofield, Walter Hooper, Clyde S. Kilby, Kathryn Lindskoog, Ruth Pitter, George Sayer, and Sheldon Vanauken. Photocopies of letters by C.S. Lewis to various correspondents are also included, as well as various related materials. Some photographs are included...
Dates: Created: 1942-1992; Other: Majority of material found in 1979-1986