MEMPHIS, Tenn. — State Rep. Barbara Cooper has died, a spokesman for Tennessee’s House Democrats confirmed Wednesday morning.
Cooper represented Memphis in the Tennessee House of Representatives since the late 1990s. She was running to fill the District 86 seat again in the upcoming Nov. 8 election.
Representative Cooper was not only the oldest-serving legislator in Tennessee at the time of her death but also the second-oldest state legislator serving in the entire country and the oldest-serving Democrat.
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Representative Cooper, a retired Memphis City Schools teacher, graduated from Manassas High School in North Memphis and obtained both her Bachelor’s and Masters’s degrees from Tennessee State University. She also earned a PhD. in religious studies at the Jacksonville Theological Seminary.
She was initiated into the Beta Epsilon Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc in Memphis on November 22, 1947, while she was a student at Tennessee State. She would have been a member for 75 years next month.
AKA Chapter President Cheryl Bingham also spoke highly of Cooper’s work as an educator and lawmaker saying, “She knew that there was a need and I think that was just a calling on her life, to serve all mankind, which is the motto of Alpha Kappa Alpha, she was not deterred about how she was treated, but she was more concerned about how people were treated and so her fight continued.”
Representative Barbara Cooper was 93. She is remembered as a community advocate who supported reforms for students and the city of Memphis.
I am deeply saddened by the passing of my longtime colleague and dear friend, Barbara Cooper. She was a warrior for her community and the City of Memphis, a tireless advocate on education and equality issues, and just a delightful person. We will all miss her.Karen Camper, House Minority Leader
We send our heartfelt condolences to the family, friends and supporters of State Representative Barbara Ward Cooper. Rep. Cooper was an icon and history maker in the Tennessee House of Representative. She was a mother figure to all that served with her and she fought vigourously for the voiceless. She will be sorely missed.State Rep. Antonio Parkinson, Chairman of Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators
Barbara Cooper has been a strong advocate for all things that promoted Memphis, whether economic and community development, quality education and healthcare, or efficient transportation. She is beloved by all but particularly by those in South Memphis. We extend our prayers and condolences to her family, friends, the Shelby County legislative delegation, and all her colleagues in the Tennessee General Assembly.Beverly Robertson, Greater Memphis Chamber President & CEO
“The Tennessee State University family is deeply saddened over the passing of State Representative and alumna, the Honorable Barbara Ward Cooper. Her commitment to TSU never wavered as she supported legislation to ensure the success of our students and other higher education policies. The Memphis native represented the very best of Tennessee and leaves a legacy of excellence that will be remembered by those she served for nearly three decades. We extend our sincerest condolences to her family and the citizens of House District 86. Dr. Cooper will certainly be missed when the Tennessee General Assembly convenes in the upcoming yearTennessee State University and President Glenda Glover
“It is with deep sadness that we mourn the passing of our beloved member, Tennessee State House Representative Barbara Ward Cooper. Whether serving in the community, her constituents, or Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated®, she was guided by a mission much bigger than herself. Initiated into Alpha Psi Chapter at Tennessee State University on November 27, 1947, she remained a faithful and active member. Her works are indicative of her indisputable commitment to sorority service for 75 years. She will be missed and treasured forever.”Dr. Tracey Morant Adams, South Eastern Regional Director of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.