Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Kentucky Politics: John Sherman Cooper: Biography

Life

 

John Sherman Cooper standing while smiling and holding his suit.

John Sherman Cooper (1901-1991) was a senator, ambassador and statesman from Somerset, Kentucky. He attended Centre College and graduated from Yale University in 1923. Cooper attended Harvard Law School and then served in the Kentucky General Assembly representing Pulaski County from 1928 to 1930. Cooper was then elected as County Judge of Pulaski County and served from 1929 to 1937. During WWII, Cooper served in General Patton's Third Army and assisted in reorganizing the court system for the state of Bavaria, Germany. Cooper was elected circuit judge of Pulaski County in 1945. In 1946, Cooper was elected to the Senate for the first time, serving intermittent terms in the Senate from 1946 until 1972. Cooper was a member of the United States Mission to the United Nations twice, serving in 1949 and 1968. In 1950, Cooper was chosen to be a special advisor to Secretary of State Dean Acheson in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) negotiations with European nations. From 1955 to 1956, Cooper served as the U.S. Ambassador to India and Nepal. In 1974, following his retirement from the Senate, Cooper was appointed by President Ford as the first U.S. Ambassador to East Germany and served until 1976.

KET Documentary on Cooper's Life, 1989

Cooper Through the Years

Cooper as a child sitting with his two sisters in a studio portrait, Circa 1900s

Cooper with sisters (c. 1900s)

Smoot. R. (1995). John Sherman Cooper: The early years, 1901-1927. The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, 93 (2), 133-158. https://www.jstor.org/stable/23382627

Cooper posing in his Centre College football uniform, 1918

Cooper in football uniform at Centre College, 1918

Smoot. R. (1995). John Sherman Cooper: The early years, 1901-1927. The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, 93 (2), 133-158. https://www.jstor.org/stable/23382627

Centre College basketball team photograph, Cooper sits in uniform, 1919.

Cooper in Centre College basketball team picture, 1919

Cooper is second row, far right

[Basketball team, 1919]. (1919). Centre College Digital Archives. https://centre.omeka.net/items/show/58

Cooper's senior portrait at Yale University, circa 1923

Cooper's senior portrait at Yale, circa 1923

Smoot. R. (1995). John Sherman Cooper: The early years, 1901-1927. The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, 93 (2), 133-158. https://www.jstor.org/stable/23382627

Cooper posing for a photograph at a desk with pen and paper in hand, circa 1940s

Cooper circa 1940s.

Slaughter, J. (n.d.). John Sherman Cooper [Photograph]. Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/pcplphotos/25112350729/

Cooper posing for a portrait, circa 1940s.

Cooper circa 1940s

Smith, C.T. (n.d.). John Sherman Cooper [Photograph]. Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/pcplphotos/47705366871/

Cooper's siblings and mother posing for a photograph, circa 1940s.

Cooper family portrait, circa 1940s.

Cooper standing third from left, posing with his siblings and mother

Smith, C.T. (n.d.). Cooper family [Photograph]. Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/pcplphotos/43246303734/

Cooper standing with his mother at a campaign rally, Eisenhower poster is visible in the background

Cooper with his mother at a campaign rally, 1952

Smith, C.T.  (n.d.). Politics [Photograph]. Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/pcplphotos/48464811816/

Google Arts Culture Webpage on Cooper

Timeline

1901: Born on August 23rd in Somerset to an upper-class family. Father was a prominent entrepreneur, politician, and attorney in Pulaski County. Mother was a teacher and homemaker.
1918: Graduates from Somerset High School and enters Centre College.
1919: Enters Yale University.
1923: Graduates from Yale with a B.A.
1923: Enters Harvard Law School.
1925: Drops out of Harvard Law school after his father's death in 1924 to support his mother and siblings.
1928: Passes the bar exam in Kentucky.
1928: Becomes a member of the Kentucky General Assembly representing Pulaski County.
1929: is elected County Judge of Pulaski County.
1938: Quits position as county judge after serving two terms to practice law.
1939: Makes first statewide race in bid for Governor of Kentucky in the Republican gubernatorial primary.
1942: Enlists and serves in General Patton's Third Army.
1944: Marries Evelyn Pfaff in Pennsylvania.
1945: Is selected to reorganize the court system in Bavaria, Germany.
1945: Is elected Circuit Judge of Pulaski, Rockcastle, Wayne and Clinton Counties.
1946: Wins first term in the Senate by defeating John Y. Brown Sr.
1947: Divorces from Evelyn Pfaff.
1948: Loses Senate race to Virgil Chapman.
1949: Becomes a member of the U.S. Mission to the UN.
1950: Becomes a special advisor to the State Department on the formation of NATO.
1952: Wins Senate race against Tom Underwood.
1954: Loses Senate race to Alben Barkley.
1955: Appointed by President Eisenhower as U.S. Ambassador to India and Nepal.
1955: Marries Lorraine Rowan Shevlin in California.
1956: Wins Senate race against Lawrence Wetherby.
1960: Re-elected to the Senate after defeating Keen Johnson.
1966: Re-elected to the Senate after defeating John Y. Brown Sr.
1968: Serves as a member of the U.S. Mission to the UN.
1972: Retires from the Senate.
1972: Becomes a member of the law firm Covington & Burling LLP on an of counsel basis.
1974: Becomes the first U.S. Ambassador to East Germany.
1976: Appointment as U.S. Ambassador to East Germany ends.
1989: Retires from Covington & Burling LLP.
1991: Dies in Georgetown, D.C. on February 12th at the age of eighty-nine.