Notable Deaths

December 24, 2009

ANN NIXON COOPER, 107

Was lauded by Obama on Election Night

Ann Nixon Cooper, the Atlanta centenarian lauded by President Barack Obama in his Election Night speech last year, died Monday at her southwest Atlanta home. She would have turned 108 on Jan. 9.

In his 2008 speech, President Obama called Mrs. 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, President Obama praised her 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."

On Inauguration Day, she proudly hosted a full house of news 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."

Mrs. Cooper first registered to vote 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.

She 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." Mr. Young, a former Atlanta mayor and ordained minister, was also a fellow member of First Congregational Church.

"She was just a really wonderful woman who lived a very good life," Mr. Young said of Mrs. Cooper.

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