Tennessee State Rep. Barbara Cooper passes away at 93

Published: Oct. 26, 2022 at 6:57 AM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Tennessee State Representative Barabara Ward Cooper has passed away at the age of 93.

Earlier this year, Cooper was honored as the oldest serving legislator in Tennessee’s recorded history. She was elected to the State House of Representatives in 1996 serving the 86th District of Shelby County for 26 years.

“We need more Black women’s voices in the legislature, especially in the State House, now that we’ve lost one,” Lamar said.

Lamar worked with Cooper in the State House for three and a half years.

“Her advocacy, her love, her support in the lives that she touched will be felt for generations to come,” said State Senator London Lamar.

The Tennessee House Democrats says Cooper, who was a retired Memphis City Schools teacher, championed reform for students and the city of Memphis.

“I’m feeling shocked, I’m feeling sad. Barbara Cooper was like a mother,” said State Rep. Larry Miller.

Cooper is described as a champion for racial equality and equity in schools by her friends and colleagues. Others describe her as a dedicated public servant.

“Someone who ... knew her community and was dedicated to the end to improving our community,” said State Rep. Dwayne Thompson.

State Rep. Antonia Parkinson shared a statement about Cooper on Twitter Wednesday morning:

“This morning 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 Representatives. She was a mother figure to all that served with her and she fought vigorously for the voiceless. She will be sorely missed. - State Rep. Antonio Parkinson, Chairman of Tennessee Black Caucus if State Legislators.”

Cooper is survived by her daughters Rev. Joan Cooper Burnett and Tanya Cooper; grandchildren Reneshia Burnett, Ashlea Burnett Vaniqueur and Martez King; great-grandchildren and a host of other family, friends and supporters.

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