NEW BEDFORD — Thomas D. Lopes, 70, former state representative and publisher of the Cape Verdean News, has died at his home, his family confirmed Wednesday.
Lopes decided to run for state representative in 1975 after an unsuccessful bid for the New Bedford School Committee.
“He thought that being involved in politics was the best way to make the world a better place,” his sister, Debbie Ramos, said.
Upon winning the election, he became the first Cape Verdean member of the House, where he served four years.
“He brought a lot of pride to our community,” said City Councilor Bruce Duarte, who knew Lopes since he was “just a boy.”
“I remember how proud my family was when he won,” he said. “You had people running up to him with their children to take pictures. It was a victory for the whole community.”
Fellow City Councilor Brian Gomes said he, too, remembered when Lopes won the seat, saying “even though he only represented two wards, it meant a lot to us that a Cape Verdean could represent all types of people.”
During his time in office, Lopes helped pass state laws protecting public use of state waterways. He also led the effort to abolish a ban on advertisements by pharmacists, attorneys and opticians, according to his daughter, Christine.
After leaving politics in 1978, Lopes started the Cape Verdean News in an effort to bring together members of the Cape Verdean community.
“It was his passion,” his sister, Patricia Horner, said. “It brought him no money but it was his love.”
Horner added that Lopes spent a lot of time traveling between New Bedford and Cape Verde and was instrumental in bringing the Schooner Ernestina to New Bedford.
Gomes recalled that in interviews with Lopes for the Cape Verdean News, “even if you were on opposite sides of an issue, he always had something nice to say.”
“He always ended his interviews saying ‘thank you’ and ‘you’re doing a good job,'” Gomes said. “At least to me, that said he might not agree but that you were worth something.”
Lopes ended publication of the Cape Verdean News several months ago and had started a website, Coollywood.com, to “try and bring the paper into the 21st century,” Ramos said.
Mayor Jon Mitchell said he was thankful for Lopes’ service to New Bedford.
“We will forever be indebted to his dedication to making the lives of all residents, especially the children, better,” Mitchell said.
Lopes leaves his wife, Maria, and four sisters: Patricia Horner, Lenora Tourinho, Dolores Tavares and Deborah Ramos, all of New Bedford. His brother, John Lopes, is deceased.
He had two daughters, Christine, of West Virginia, and Denise, of North Carolina, and four grandchildren.