Wasn’t Expecting This

Adding newspaper articles to my collection of photos and documents about one of my forebears is like icing on the cake. John Washington Cooper, my great-grandfather was quite the surprise. I was looking for his obituary – that’s a typical search for a family historian – but the other articles were completely unexpected.

John Washington Cooper was born on October 23, 1873, in Wayne, Kentucky to Henry Cooper (25) and Louisa Burnett Cooper (29). He married Ethel Miller on May 19, 1900, in Pulaski, Kentucky (Somerset). They lived with Henry and Louisa until they found a place of their own.

They had three children during their marriage, a daughter Byon (“Bine”), a son Tony, and finally Bessie. Ethel died just 18 months after giving birth to Bessie, leaving John a young widower with three small children.

He didn’t remarry until after the children were grown, about 1932. By the time John remarried, Byon was 32, Tony 29, and Bessie was 26 had been married to Tolliver for 5 years.

My aunt mentioned in a phone call last week that John had strong political leanings. I tucked the tidbit of information away and continued with my search for his obituary.

At first, I was puzzled. Articles popped up that had his name at the end. It didn’t take long for me to realize it was his byline. He was writing opinion pieces for the newspaper – articles appearing above the fold on the front page.

The articles included statistics, knowledge of world events, information about the state of the economy. Articulate, well-considered, strongly opinionated, with calls to action, I was absolutely delighted to hear his voice as I read the words he had carefully assembled into his articles.

The life story of John Washington Cooper can not be contained within the genealogical proofs I have collected. He was nicknamed “Big John” and after reading some of the articles he wrote, I began to suspect that “Big John” was more about his personality than his physical stature (5’11”).

He died on May 12, 1949, in Coopersville, Kentucky, at the age of 75.

This is a compilation of some of the articles I found. (Use Control+F or Command+F, enter “Cooper” to search).