In Memoriam: John "Jack" Hooper, 86

Former Vice-Chairman and Chief Credit Officer of Chase

John “Jack” Hooper, a former vice chairman of Chase Manhattan Bank, died on August 1, 2009 at his home in Westport, Conn., after a long battle with cancer. He was 86 and also had a home in Naples, Fla.

Hooper retired as the bank’s chief credit officer in 1985. Known affectionately by his colleagues as “Dr. No", he had a responsibility for credit policy, country risk policy, real estate finance and lending services.

Born in Danbury, CT, Hooper joined the Chase National Bank in 1948 after wartime service as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army.

He served in various local and national departments of the bank before he was named executive in charge of Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa in the banks international department. 

In 1971, he was sent by Chase to Detroit to become chairman and chief executive of the Bank of the Commonwealth. Chase held a controlling interest in the bank after it foreclosed on common stock that had been pledged as collateral on default loans.

Banking sources said it was the largest take-over since World War II, and probably since the time when big banks were failing in the Depression.

After selling the bank's position, Hooper returned to New York to work closely with
Willard C. Butcher, the newly appointed bank chairman. In 1982, he was elected vice chairman, a position he held until his retirement.

Hooper was equally known by his peers for playing jazz piano.  He could be found dazzling crowds at the American Bankers Association meetings and was known on occasions for tickling the ivory for foreign heads of state or jamming with the likes of Warren Vache, or accompanying such blues belters as Carrie Smith.

In addition to his piano playing, Hooper spent time as a ham radio operator.

Hooper received his B.A. and M.B.A. from the University of Michigan, where he was a member of the senior honors society, the Order of the Angell.

Hooper was a member of the board of directors of Stone and Webster, and a founding director of the Community Preservation Corporation, a nationally recognized leader in helping developers fund and build affordable multifamily housing, with $7 billion invested to date.

He was a member of the Laurel Valley Golf Club, Patterson Club, Royal Poinciana Golf Club, Sleep Hollow Golf Club and Wilderness Country Club.

He is survived by one daughter, Dr. Judith Hooper of Ashford, Conn., one son, John, and his wife, Renee Hooper, of Fairfield, Conn., and one grandson, Nash Hooper.

Funeral services will be held Friday, August 7, 2009 at noon in Christ and Holy Trinity Church, 55 Myrtle Ave., Westport, Conn.

Contributions in his memory may be made to the Jazz Foundation of America, 322 W. 48th St., 6th Fl., New York, N.Y. 10036. This organization was founded to provide emergency assistance and long term support to veteran jazz and blues musicians. Visit at

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From Peter Larr: I worked directly for Jack during a two-year period and had extensive dealings, sometimes intense, for over a decade. He was a very sound banker, having good judgement, and he was both a gentleman and delightful human being. 

From John A. Ward: I totally agree. When I was Credit Supervising Officer for Europe. I met Jack. He was a fine individual and very supportive.

From Donald Fine: I was very saddened when I read the news of Jack Hooper's passing.  I used to attend the Credit Policy meetings that Jack chaired, and I always appreciated his wisdom, advice and clever personality.  I kept in contact with Jack through all these years, and will greatly miss his humor and his comments about our mutual passion, the University of Michigan football team.  He was an outstanding member of the Chase family.

From Hughlyn F. Fierce:  Sorry to hear about Jack. He was in every sense of the word a distinguished banker and gentleman. I also worked with Jack on credit policy issues and we debated them early in the morning on a regular basis from fall of 1977 through March of 1979. His analysis was compelling and his charm was most persuasive. I don't think the Dr. No was deserved because we could see easily the amount of losses the bank took through the seventies. He was also a magnificent jazz piano player who had excellent timing, balance and humor.  Warmest best wishes to his family.

From Eshagh Shaoul: I served as Senior Credit Officer in Chase Singapore in 1980-83 when Jack Hooper was Chase's Chief Credit Officer. At that time Credit people were not the most popular people at Chase.  But after Mr. Hooper visited the branch in 1982, and took over the piano at a Chase dinner party I had organized for the Singaporean employees, my job became much easier, as I had accompanied Mr. Hooper on violin and, as a result, was finally accepted as the Dr. No of Singapore and greatly respected.

From Jim Ross: When Jack came to Chase (USA) in the early 80's, I was assigned to give him the "tour" and to be his escort to the various meetings we had scheduled for him. I thought he was going to be a pain, and he was just the opposite....gracious, enjoyable, etc. I spent two days with him and coincidentally we discovered that he had served in WWII with my father-in-law, an upstate NY lawyer and fellow jazz man. To make this two-day event even more memorable, it was capped off by our limo driver getting into an accident during the five minute drive to the Wilmington Train Station. Jack was unfazed and calming to the driver. While my experience with Jack was limited, I will always have fond memories.

From Ronald C. Mayer: I did not have the privilege of having extensive contact with Mr. Hooper.  I do have one vivid memory. In 1985 I was invited to attend a meeting of senior management discussing Chase’s possible acquisition of failed state-chartered Ohio thrifts as a way to enter that state with a commercial banking license.  The only dissenting voice in the room was Mr. Hooper’s.   Chase Bank of Ohio turned out to be a consistent money-loser until its sale in the 90’s.  We should have listened to his  “no.”

From Ed Moran: I have many fond memories of Jack; most dating from the days I ran the PennSquare workout. He'd invite me to his office to share roast beef sandwiches and talk about the challenges in Oklahoma City. Invariably he'd hit me with a particularly knotty question just as I had a mouthful of sandwich. He was a solid credit officer and his advice, especially on how to handle the FDIC (accumulated from his Commonwealth experience) was usually on the mark.  Jack had a quick mind and woe be to the credit officer who wasn't prepared for all contingencies going into his office. If he siezed on one fact in your presentation that you weren't ready for, the whole matter could go down the drain before your eyes. Turning him was like turning a battleship. I used to say that Paul Walker inherited his "Harumpf " from Jack. Between the two of them, Chase was always in good hands.

From Robert L. Potts: I'm sorry to hear of the passing of Jack Hooper.  I met often with him during the Latin American debt meltdown.  He was always sharp, insightful, a complete professional, and an absolute gentleman.

From Bob Shippee: Jack was an intimidating figure for a fledgling corporate banker in the early 1970s.  I recall he once asked a pushy deal-maker, who was long on concepts but short on substance, “How do you book a sale?”  Receiving in reply a look of incomprehension, Jack suggested he return when he had the answer.  Having not embarrassed myself when seeking his approval for several GE export deals, I brazenly asked Jack for a lift one evening when I spotted him heading for the garage at 1 CMP.  He graciously consented and soon put me at ease by asking me if I was any relation to Lester Shippee, formerly the state banking commissioner and then chairman of the Connecticut Bank and Trust Company.  My distant connection with Great Uncle Lester didn’t hurt my standing with Jack.  And, I knew how to book a sale…
      Alerted by Dick Wolf, I attended Jack’s funeral on August 7 in Westport, CT.  Bill Butcher and Dick Boyle, among others, were also there.  The well-known jazz musician Chris Coogan performed a 20-minute Prelude jazz piano concert, playing a selection of Jack’s favorite pieces.  Jack’s son and daughter spoke well and lovingly about their father, who apparently went straight to the piano every day upon arriving home from the office.  The family could always tell what kind of day he’d had by listening to his choice of music.  The service ended with military honors – the playing of Taps on a bugle and the presentation of a triangle-folded flag to the family.  Jack was a good banker and a good man.