J. Gary Cooper, pioneering Marine leader, dies at 87

J. Gary Cooper, pioneering Marine leader, dies at 87


His great-aunt Pearl Madison, the matriarch of the family, helped establish burial insurance companies and later funeral homes, an important industry for the black community in the 1920s. His father, known as AJ, was for many years secretary and treasurer of the Christian Charitable Funeral Home and Burial Association, an integrated business.

Gary Cooper’s first marriage to Charlsetta Ferrill produced three children but ended in divorce. His second marriage to Gloria Giles also ended in divorce. He married Beverly Martin in 1991. She survives him. In addition to his daughter Jolie Claire, his other children, Patrick Charles Cooper and Gladys Sean Cooper, as well. seven grandchildren; Great-granddaughter. sister, Dominque Cooper; His younger brother is Algernon J. Cooper Jr., a former aide to Robert F. Kennedy.

He was also preceded in death by two other brothers who led notable lives. Mario Cooper, a Democratic national operative who raised awareness of AIDS in the black community, died in 2015, and Peggy Cooper Cafritz, a collector and advocate of black artists, died in 2018.

In 1974, General Cooper was elected as a Democrat to the Alabama State Legislature. He was a Mobile native and became the first African American to serve in the state’s House of Representatives after Reconstruction. A pragmatist from Montgomery, he agreed to ally with racist Governor George Wallace and become one of the House majority leaders. In the mid-1970s, he sponsored a bill to fund the retirement of a Mobile County probate judge (the same official who kept separate licenses for black and white marriages) to help the judge end racially discriminatory practices. I blocked him until he agreed.

General Cooper served until 1978, when he resigned to become Secretary of the Department of State Pensions and Security.



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