Biography - GEORGE R. COOPER

Judge George R. Cooper, a member of the firm of Lane & Cooper, probably the oldest law firm of southern Illinois, has attained to a distinguished position in connection with his profession. He was born in Greencastle, Indiana, on the 25th of July, 1855. His father, Jacob R. Cooper, was a native of Maysville, Kentucky, and was of Scotch-Irish descent. He was a mechanic who learned and followed the carpenter's trade and throughout his business career commanded the respect and confidence of his fellow men. He removed from Kentucky to Indiana and became one of the influential and leading citizens of the neighborhood. A man well informed, he kept in touch with all ideas of modern progress and improvement and was the champion of every measure that tended to promote the welfare of his community. Although reared in a southern state he was an ardent abolitionist and was a most consistent member of the Methodist church. He died in November, 1877, at the age of sixty-one years. His wife, who bore the maiden name of Eliza Robinson, was also a native of Kentucky and with her parents removed to Indiana, her father becoming one of the pioneer farmers of that state. Earlier generations of the family resided in Virginia. Her father was also a Methodist in religious faith and in his political views was a Republican. In 1858 Jacob R. Cooper removed with his family to Illinois, settling near Coffeen. Unto him and his wife were born six children: Sarah M. became the wife of James M. Moore, who served his country as a soldier in the Civil war and died in 1878; Mary A. became the wife of Dayton T. Miller and after his death married John Deitrick, of Greencastle, Indiana; Louisa J. became the wife of Harmon Young, a school teacher residing in Greenville, Bond county, Illinois, and her death occurred in August, 1871; William H. is a traveling salesman residing in St. Louis; George R. is the fifth of the family; and John R. is a coal miner at Coffeen, Illinois.

In the district schools George R. Cooper acquired his preliminary education, which was supplemented by study in Hillsboro Academy. He afterward engaged in teaching, following that profession for two terms in Bond county and for seven years in Fillmore township, but the profession of law attracted him and he entered the office of Rice, Miller & McDavid in 1880. He there read for about two years, teaching school in the winter months. He afterward spent a year in the office of Judge Edward Lane and was admitted to the bar in 1882. Through the succeeding winter he again engaged in teaching and then entered the office of Judge Lane, but thirty days later, entirely without his solicitation, was elected city attorney. After his first year in that office, in the spring of 1883, he formed a partnership with Judge Lane and the business connection has continued without interruption to the present time, this being probably the oldest law firm in southern Illinois. Mr. Cooper was elected twice to the office of city attorney, was chosen to fill a vacancy in the position of county judge occasioned by the death of Judge Lewis Allen, in November, 1891, and in 1894 was chosen for the full term. He was nominated for supreme judge on the Republican ticket at Vandalia in 1901 to fill a vacancy occasioned by the death of Judge Jesse J. Phillips. He has won distinction at the bar and on the bench. A man of unimpeachable character, of strong intellectual endowments, with a thorough understanding of the law, patience, urbanity and industry, he took to the bench the very highest qualifications for this responsible position in the state government and his record as a judge has been in harmony with his record as a man and a lawyer, distinguished by unswerving integrity and a masterful grasp of every question which was presented for solution. In the private practice of law his clientage has been of a most important character and the firm of Lane & Cooper is always connected with every important litigated interest of the district. Mr. Cooper is also a director and stockholder in the Hillsboro National Bank.

On the 10th of June, 1886, occurred the marriage of George R Cooper and Miss Nettie Ireland, a daughter of Dr. H. M. and Sarah Ireland, of Columbia City, Indiana, where Mrs. Cooper was born. Her death occurred February 24, 1887, when she was twenty-six years of age. On the 12th of December, 1894, Judge Cooper wedded Estelle S. Allen, a daughter of Professor A. P. and Josephine Allen, the latter a niece of William M. Springer. Her father is a graduate of Asbury University of Greencastle, Indiana, and had charge of the schools in Hillsboro as principal for some time. He and his family were residents of Erie, Kansas, at the time of the marriage of Judge and Mrs. Cooper. The latter was born at Sullivan, Indiana, in 1873, and was liberally educated. Judge Cooper has four children: Josephine, Lane, Mary and George R, Jr.

Both the Judge and his wife are members of the Methodist Episcopal church. He is identified with the Masonic fraternity, the Modern Woodmen Camp and the Business Men's Club. In politics he is a Republican and he takes an active and helpful interest in community affairs. He was the first president of the board of education under the present law and served in that capacity for seven years, his labors being effective and greatly promoting the school interests of the city. He is also one of the trustees of his church, takes a very active part in church work and is now serving as a member of the official board. Faultless in honor, fearless in conduct and stainless in reputation, he is no less honored in public than loved in private life.

Extracted 11 Apr 2020 by Norma Hass from 1904 Past and Present of Montgomery County, Illinois, by Jacob L. Traylor, pages 24-28.

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