Atlanta centenarian voter praised by Obama in 2008 election night speech dies at 107

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Ga. centenarian voter lauded by Obama dies at 107

ATLANTA — Ann Nixon Cooper, the Atlanta centenarian lauded by President Barack Obama in his election night speech last year, has died. She was 107.

Obama in his 2008 speech called Cooper an example of “the heartbreak and the hope” of the past century. He noted she was born at a time when women and blacks couldn’t vote and lived to cast her ballot for the country’s first black president.

In a statement Tuesday, Obama praised 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,” the statement read. “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 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 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.”

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 Obama on Oct. 16, 2008.

In her 90s, she jokingly claimed civil rights icon Andrew Young as her “boyfriend.” Young, a former Atlanta mayor and ordained minister, was also a fellow member of First Congregational Church.

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 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,” Young said of 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.”

Young said Cooper’s funeral will be Monday at Friendship Baptist Church in Atlanta.

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