Black Centenarian Ann Nixon Cooper, Praised by Obama, Dies

Black Centenarian Ann Nixon Cooper, Praised by Obama, Dies

Published December 23, 2009

The 107-year-old Black woman whom Barack Obama praised as a role model for exercising her right to vote despite the threat of violence died Monday.

Ann Nixon Cooper died less than three weeks shy of her 108th birthday at her home in Atlanta, where she was surrounded by family and friends, CNN reports.

"She was born just a generation past slavery ... when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons – because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin,” President Obama said of Cooper in his post-election victory speech in Chicago. "At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot."

Cooper said that helping elect Obama as the nation’s first African-American president was one of the greatest moments of her century on Earth.  She said during the election, “I ain’t got no time to die!”

"There was a time when they thought they could just kick us around," she said on Inauguration Day. "Now, it has changed."

Born in Shelbyville, Tenn., in 1902, Cooper was reared by her uncles and an aunt in Nashville, where they worked as maids and servants for wealthy White folks, according to CNN. In 1922, she marred Albert Cooper, a well-known dentist, and they moved to Atlanta, where they raised four children.

As a member of Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached, Cooper taught young Blacks how to read. She also established a Girls Club for African Americans.

"Our days and nights were just social affairs," she told CNN last year. Among the celebrities who visited her home at the time was the late singer Nat King Cole, CNN reports.

She is survived by just one of her four children, an 84-year-old daughter, who was by her side Monday.

"I don't know how it happened, but being cheerful had a lot to do with it. I've always been a happy person, a giggling person – a wide-mouthed person,” Cooper told CNN recently when asked about the secret to her longevity.   

"Keep smiling,” she continued. “No matter what, you get out and vote. Vote your choice."

 

Written by <P>By BET.com Staff</P>

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