From The Kentucky Encyclopedia -
John Sherman Cooper, U.S. senator and diplomat, was born on August 23, 1901, at Somerset, Kentucky, to John and Helen (Tartar) Cooper. His father, a prominent lawyer, farmer, and businessman, served as Pulaski County judge, a position also held by Cooper's maternal grandfather. Educated first in a private school but mainly in the Somerset public schools, Cooper in the fall of 1918 enrolled at Centre College . After one academic year, he transferred to Yale University, where he received an A.B. in 1923. Cooper entered Harvard Law School in the fall of 1923, but after his father's death the following summer he returned to Somerset to head the family.
Passing the Kentucky bar examination in 1928, Cooper began the practice of law in Somerset. In the same year he was elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives, where he was one of only three Republicans to oppose Gov. Flem Sampson 's (1927-31) unsuccessful effort to politicize the state's Health Department. Cooper supported the governor's bill to provide free textbooks, and he introduced a bill to prohibit injunctions against labor strikes. After serving two terms as judge of Pulaski County (1930-38), he made a bid for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 1939. Defeated by King Swope , he resumed the practice of law in Somerset. He had been appointed to the University of Kentucky board of trustees in 1935, a position he held until 1946.
At the age of forty-one, Cooper enlisted in the U.S. army as a private and was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1943. He served with Gen. George Patton's 3d Army in France, Luxembourg, and Germany. After the war, Captain Cooper headed the reorganization of the German judicial system in Bavaria and served as legal adviser for the repatriation of displaced persons in the 3d Army occupation zone.
While still in Germany, Cooper was elected circuit judge for Kentucky's 28th Judicial District. During his tenure, blacks were allowed to serve on trial juries for the first time in that judicial district. In 1946 Cooper was elected to the U.S. Senate to fill the unexpired term of A.B. Chandler, who had resigned to become commissioner of baseball. He won over John Y. Brown, Sr. , by 42,000 votes, the largest majority given a Republican in Kentucky up to that time. As a freshman senator (November 6, 1946 to January 3, 1949), Cooper sponsored the first bill to provide 90 percent parity support for tobacco, and he quickly established a reputation for independence. His bid for reelection was thwarted by Democrat Virgil Chapman. In 1949 Cooper affiliated with the Washington law firm of Gardner, Morison and Rogers. President Harry S. Truman appointed him a delegate to the U.N. General Assembly in 1949, and he served as an alternate delegate in 1950 and 1951 and again in 1968 and 1981. He was an adviser to Secretary of State Dean Acheson at the London and Brussels meetings of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's Council of Ministers in 1950.
Cooper was again elected to the Senate over Thomas R. Underwood , to fill the vacancy created by the death of Virgil Chapman , starting November 5, 1952. However, in 1954 his bid for reelection was defeated by his good friend, former Senate majority leader and Vice-President Alben Barkley, and his term ended on January 3, 1955. President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed Cooper ambassador to India and Nepal in January 1955; U.S.-Indian relations demonstrated a marked improvement during Cooper's tenure.
Cooper was elected over the Democratic candidate, Lawrence Wetherby, to fill the unexpired U.S. Senate term created by the death of Alben Barkley. In the senatorial election of 1960, Cooper won his first full six-year term, defeating Keen Johnson by 199,000 votes. In 1966 he won over John Y. Brown, Sr. , by 217,000 votes. Cooper, who did not seek reelection in 1972, served from November 7, 1956, to January 3, 1973. He cosponsored with Sen. Jennings Randolph the Appalachian Regional Development Act. He vigorously opposed deployment of the antiballistic missile system ( Cooper-Hart Amendment), and attempts to weaken the Tennessee Valley Authority. From his position on the Foreign Relations Committee, he was one of the earliest, most persistent, and influential critics of the Vietnam War.
A 1960 Newsweek poll of fifty Washington news correspondents named Cooper the ablest Republican in the Senate. President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1963 appointed him to the Warren Commission, which investigated the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. From 1973 to 1989 Cooper was a member of the law firm of Covington and Burling in Washington, D.C. He took leave from the firm in 1974 to accept President Gerald Ford's appointment as the first U.S. ambassador to the German Democratic Republic, serving in that post until late 1976.
In 1944 Cooper married Evelyn Pfaff. They were divorced in 1947. Cooper was married to Lorraine Rowan Shevlin from March 17, 1955, until her death on February 3, 1985. Cooper died on February 21, 1991, in Washington, D.C., and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Clarice James Mitchener, Senator John Sherman Cooper: Consummate Statesman (New York 1982)
Robert Schulman, John Sherman Cooper: The Global Kentuckian (Lexington, Ky., 1976).
WILLIAM COOPER, Entry AuthorSelected Sources from UK Libraries:
Cooper, J. (1927). John Sherman Cooper Papers, 1927-1979.
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Cooper, W., Birdwhistell, T., Smoot, R., Merritt, H., & Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History. (1976). John Sherman Cooper Oral History Project.
Special Collections Research Center Spec Coll Research Center - Oral History Collection OHCoop
Smoot, R. (1988). John Sherman Cooper : The paradox of a liberal republican in Kentucky politics. Lexington, Ky.: [s.n.].
Young Library Theses 5th Floor Stacks Theses 1988