Obituary: Ann Nixon Cooper/Georgia centenarian voter lauded by Obama
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ATLANTA -- Atlanta centenarian Ann Nixon Cooper, lauded by President Barack Obama in his election night speech last year, has died. She was 107.
Mr. Obama in his 2008 speech called Ms. Cooper an example of "the heartbreak and the hope" of the past century. He noted that she was born at a time when women and blacks couldn't vote and yet lived to cast her ballot for the country's first black president.
In a statement yesterday, Mr. Obama praised Ms. Cooper's life of service and offered his condolences. "It is especially meaningful for me that she lived to cast a vote on Election Day 2008, and it was a deep honor for me to mark her life in the speech I delivered that night," he said. "It was a life that captured the spirit of community and change and progress that is at the heart of the American experience; a life that inspired and will continue to inspire me in the years to come."
Carl M. Williams Funeral Directors of Atlanta, which is handling arrangements, confirmed that Ms. Cooper died Monday at her southwest Atlanta home on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. She would have turned 108 on Jan. 9.
On Inauguration Day, she proudly hosted a full house of media and guests to watch Mr. Obama take office -- a feat for which she took partial credit. When one of her grandsons asked, "How do you feel about having a black president?" she quickly responded, "I helped put him there."
Ms. Cooper first registered to vote on Sept. 1, 1941, but because she was a black woman in a segregated, sexist society, she didn't exercise her right for years -- deferring instead to her husband, Dr. Albert B. Cooper, a prominent Atlanta dentist.
Ann Nixon Cooper outlived her husband, who died in 1967, and three of her four children. She cast an early ballot for Mr. Obama on Oct. 16, 2008.
In her 90s, she jokingly claimed civil rights icon Andrew Young as her "boyfriend." Mr. Young, a former Atlanta mayor and ordained minister, was also a fellow member of First Congregational Church.
Ms. Cooper was an active woman who did aerobics until she was 100, took the stairs to her bedroom until she broke her hip last year, wore out friends 20 years her junior on shopping trips and even dismissed Mr. Young on the dance floor at her 104th birthday party, he recalled.
"She was just a really wonderful woman who lived a very good life," Mr. Young said of Ms. Cooper, whom he visited a few days before her death. "She just outlived and outlasted everybody," he said. "She was always joking and always happy and never complained about anything."
Mr. Young said Ms. Cooper's funeral will be Monday at Friendship Baptist Church in Atlanta.
First Published December 23, 2009 12:30 am