MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It's not every day that someone completely switches careers in their late 60s. In fact, most people are ready to retire by then, but not Barbara Cooper.
This longtime school teacher became a politician and was first elected to the state House of Representatives in 1996 and age 67. While she was never a vocal, in-your-face political leader, she did all she could to address the needs of her constituents in District 86. They supported her without fail through 13 elections.
Cooper died Tuesday, two and a half months after winning the August Democratic primary. She was 93 and the oldest serving legislator in state history. After learning of her death, colleagues – both Democrats and Republicans – offered effusive praise for Cooper and her 26-year legislative career.
State Rep. Antonio Parkinson called Cooper a mother figure to everyone who served with her. While secretary of state and former lawmaker Tre Hargett called her a tireless advocate for Tennessee children and a wonderful lady. Who can disagree with that?
Despite her death, Cooper's name remains on the Nov. 8 ballot. Because early voting has started, chances are strong she'll win for the 14th time against independent candidate Michael Porter, but that's a topic for another day.
For now, let's remember with respect and gratitude, a public servant who despite her many years in the classroom, never learned the meaning of quit.