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Jerry Cooper Day
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Jerry Cooper is shown by the highway sign bearing his name in Newtown in this photo from November 2018.
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Jerry Cooper’s daughters gather to remember and pay tribute to their father’s legacy. Pictured, from left, are Faith Cooper McGee, Elisa Cooper Luna, Holly Bushart, and Sally Cooper Pack.

Flags were lowered to half-staff on Friday on the McMinnville Motlow Community College Campus as family, friends, and dozens of officials gathered to remember and celebrate the life of the late state Sen. Jerry Wayne Cooper. 

Cooper passed on March 21, 2020 at the height of the COVID pandemic and during a time when remembrances were limited to only graveside services with immediate family. Friday’s tribute was made to a man who spent a lifetime in service to his community and state.   

The celebration was organized by Gary D. Morgan, lifelong friend, trustee, and past chair of the Motlow College Foundation. There was a luncheon and an afternoon of numerous speakers who all shared personal stories about Jerry resulting in bittersweet laughter and occasional tears.  

Morgan said of the former senator, “If you knew Jerry Cooper, you knew if he got something on his mind, he was going to do it.  Because of Jerry we have a four-lane to I-24. We used to joke him and say wherever you go, it rains asphalt.”

Dr. Frank Glass, president emeritus of Motlow said, “To me, this is Cooper Campus. Jerry worked so hard obtaining money for this college. His fingerprints are all over this campus. He was a friend of Motlow College and he was a friend of mine. I miss him.”

Congressman Steve Cohen, a longtime state senator, said, “He was the best senator by far and he knew how to get things done on both sides of the aisle.”

Mr. Pat Miller, former executive director to Speaker of the House John Wilder, said of Cooper, “You could not call spending time with Jerry hanging out.  You called it an experience.”

A partial list of Cooper’s many accomplishments garnered from the Motlow College Foundation Resolution include the following: 

senator from 1984-2007

sponsor of legislation which resulted in $18 million for the McMinnville campus

assisted Motlow State in obtaining Department of Labor grants for the Mechatronics department which resulted in a $3.2 million impact

served as Motlow Foundation trustee for 25 years 

state president of the Jaycees in 1981 during which time Camp Discovery, a camp for children with mental and physical disabilities, was opened.

Cooper was awarded Outstanding Jaycee in 1974, Outstanding Young Man of America in 1975, Outstanding Young Man of Tennessee in 1983, and Tennessee Legislator of the Year in 1997

He was the president of Cooper Manufacturing, Inc. which opened in 1973.  

Warren County Executive Jimmy Haley said, “He loved this community and he loved this state. There is nothing more appropriate to say other than thank you, thank you for all you have done.”