1:00 a.m., July 20, 1957. Auburn football star Bobby Hoppe was enjoying a beautiful mid-summer night as he headed home from a date with his girlfriend. He certainly wasn’t expecting trouble as he drove down the steep, winding road in North Chattanooga. When a darkened car, its headlights off, cruised up behind him, he assumed it was old high school buddies playing a prank. But as the driver pulled alongside and pointed a pistol at his head, Hoppe recognized his sister’s ex-lover, a disreputable whiskey runner. A shot was fired, the car fell back, and Hoppe fled for his life.
No one in town wanted to believe the hometown hero was a killer, and the authorities turned their heads, allowing the case to become another unsolved homicide. But for Hoppe it was a moment seared into memory, plaguing his conscience constantly. He fled to Auburn, to the football field where he could exorcize his demons by running and hitting, and where his senior leadership helped lead the Tigers to the 1957 national championship. As years passed, Hoppe struggled to appear normal. No one saw into his dark conscience or knew he was always seeking penance, yet never able to forgive himself.
In an historic indictment, Hoppe was charged with first-degree murder thirty- one years later, although witnesses had died, police records had been lost, and memories had faded. Bobby Hoppe’s demons were exposed to the light—and his loved ones saw for the first time what lay hidden behind his stoic mask.
Sherry Hoppe knew her husband intimately, they shared a deep love, but until the eve of that fateful indictment she did not know his innermost secret, that Bobby Hoppe had killed a man.
Through reliving the dramatic trial, where one of America’s great attorneys, Bobby Lee Cook, defended her husband with all the skill and wit he could muster, Sherry Hoppe tells the story of her love and the mystery submerged in Hoppe’s conscience as he faced the consequences of that fateful morning in July. In the weeks before his death in 2008, with Bobby’s blessing, Sherry began to write his story, pouring through trial transcripts, combing through boxes of old newspaper clippings and interviewing friends, family and witnesses.
Fifty years have passed since that traumatic event, and mystery still surrounds Bobby Hoppe, his demons have been banished, but what really happened that night?