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James T. Cooper, a lawyer, banker and widely known citizen of Fredonia, was born in Woodson, but then Wilson, County, Kansas, August 30, 1866, and represents a family that came to Kansas while it was a territory.
The ancestry of Mr. Cooper is particularly interesting. He is descended from that Sir Ashley Cooper, the Earl of Shaftsbury, who founded a colony on the Ashley River in North Carolina, and from that settlement the family name had become widely dispersed. It may be of interest to recall the fact that the noted John Locke, the great English philosopher, prepared a model charter or constitution for the government of Sir Ashley’s colony, and while the rules exemplified a beautiful theory, they did not prove entirely practical or successful in handling the administration of the colony.
Later ancestors of the Kansas lawyer were his great-grandfather, Vinson Cooper, who was born in North Carolina in 1769; and the grandfather, David C. Cooper, who was born in Tennessee in 1806.
Albert J. Cooper, father of James T., was born in Montgomery County, Tennessee, in 1824, and when ten years of age removed with his parents to Bates County, Missouri, where he grew up and where he married. He took up farming, and in 1857 he joined some of the early settlers in Kansas, locating on the Verdigris River in Woodson County. He homesteaded a quarter section, but sold it in 1870 and removed to Wilson County, where he bought the farm on which he lived until his death in 1891. He left an estate of 265 acres, and that was undivided for twenty years, until after the death of his widow. Albert Cooper in politics was generally a republican. However, in 1876 he supported Tilden and Hendricks, and after that he resumed his party regularity and voted in succession for Garfield, Blaine and Harrison. He was a veteran of the Civil war, having enlisted in the spring of 1863 in the Ninth Kansas Cavalry at Humboldt, Kansas, and was with his command in following up Price during his second raid, and pursuing that Confederate leader until he was forced back into Arkansas. He served in the army until mustered out in August, 1865, at Duvall’s Bluff, Arkansas. He was an active member of Coyville Post, Grand Army of the Republic, and a member of the Christian Church.
Albert J. Cooper married Caroline Waller, who was born in Carroll County, Kentucky, in 1830 and died in Wilson County, Kansas, on the old homestead in 1911. Her children were: Mrs. Nancy Hase, a widow, living in Wilson County; Elizabeth, who married Howard Puckett, who for many years served as marshal or chief of police at Newton, where he and his wife still reside; and James T.
James T. Cooper gained his early education in the rural schools of Wilson County. His career had been characterized by hard and consistent work with a steadfast holding to a high ambition and ideal. The first eighteen years of his life he lived on a farm and he then entered the Baker University at Baldwin for one year. For a considerable part of his early life he alternated with attending and teaching school. After leaving Baker University he taught in Wilson County one year, attended the Kansas Normal College at Fort Scott one term, again taught a year in Wilson County, took one term in the State Normal School at Emporia, following which he was principal of the Fredonia High School a year, and then finished his course in the State Normal at Emporia, graduating after two years and receiving a teacher’s life certificate. The next year was spent as principal of the schools at Toronto, Canada, and during the summer of 1892 he was instructor in the Normal Institute at Yates Center.
The fall of 1892 first brought him into political prominence in Wilson County when he was elected clerk of the District Court. He filled that office four years. While in office he studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1895, and on the expiration of his term in 1897 began practice and had had his offices now for twenty years in the second story of the Wilson County Bank Building.
While he had been successful as a lawyer his widely extended business interests require a great deal of his time. He had sold much of his farm lands but still owned forty acres west of town, had considerable city property, including his residence at 530 North Tenth Street.
Mr. Cooper is a director in the Farmers and Bankers Life Insurance Company of Wichita; director of the State Bank of Perryville, Kansas; stockholder in the Wilson County Bank, the Bank of Fredonia, the Union Bank of Neodesha, the Citizens State Bank of Altoona, the Lafontaine State Bank, the Citizens State Bank of Elk City and the State Bank of Troyville; is a director in the Fredonia Ice and Light Company and the Home Building and Loan Association, and a stockholder in the Kansas Casualty Insurance Company of Wichita.
In politics Mr. Cooper is a democrat. For several years he served as city attorney of Fredonia. He is a member of the board of trustees and president of the Wilson County Hospital and is a member of the city library board.
In 1895, in Wilson County, he married Miss Flora Jackson, daughter of C. B. and Mary (Hickox) Jackson. The Jackson family were early settlers in Wilson County, Kansas, where Mrs. Cooper was born in 1869. Her parents arrived there in 1865 and her father followed farming the rest of his active life. Her mother is still living, her home being on the farm near New Albany.