Hortense Cooper, governor’s wife & congressman’s mother, dies age 98

Hortense Hayes Powell Cooper, widow of Gov. Prentice Cooper and mother of U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, died Monday night at Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville at age 98, according to the congressman’s office.

A statement from her congressman son: “My mom was a gracious Southern lady. She will be remembered for her sweet spirit and her smile for everyone. She never met a stranger or had a bad day. She woke up happy and went to bed happy. Life was never about her; it was about other people. Regardless of circumstance, she simply delighted in the world.”

The obituary, appearing in the Shelbyville Times-Gazette, is HERE. An excerpt:

Born before women could vote, daughter of a suffrage activist, wife of Tennessee Gov. Prentice Cooper, and mother of three sons, she devoted her life to family, Tennessee politics, historic preservation, and the well-being of her community.

Hortense was born on April 28, 1919, the second of three children to Margaret Hayes and Ferdinand Powell of Johnson City, TN. Her family tree included James Robertson, a Nashville founder, Randal McGavock, an early Nashville mayor, and Adelicia Acklen, who built Belmont Mansion.

… In 1939, she met her future husband, Tennessee Governor Prentice Cooper, when she helped host Tennessee Day at the New York World’s Fair. They married in 1950, after his stint as U.S. Ambassador to Peru (1946-48), in a service at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in New York. The couple moved back to Shelbyville, Tennessee, where they raised three boys on a steady diet of books, Democratic politics, and purposeful travel. Their sons are William, now a Nashville attorney; Jim, the U.S. Congressman for Nashville, Cheatham and Dickson Counties; and John, a Metro Councilman-at-Large for Davidson County. After her husband died, in 1969, Hortense again worked at the United Nations, and was stationed in Vienna, Austria. She then returned to Shelbyville as a tireless volunteer and businesswoman.

… She is survived by her sons, William, Jim (Martha), and John (Laura), and her six grandchildren: Mary, Jamie, and Hayes (Jim and Martha); and John Powell, McGavock, and Crockett (John and Laura). Her family thanks her team of exceptionally skilled and kind caregivers, led by Robbie Anderson of Paducah, KY., and the staff at Richland Place.

Visitation will be held at Christ Church Cathedral on Friday, Sept. 22 at 1 p.m. with funeral to follow at 2. Burial will be at Jenkins Chapel outside of Shelbyville at 5 p.m., with a Shelbyville visitation at 6 p.m. at Feldhaus Memorial Chapel. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations should be made to the charity of your choice.

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Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.
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