Atlanta woman,106, basks in Obama tribute

November 6, 2008 5:50:00 AM PST
At age 106, Ann Nixon Cooper doesn't usually stay awake past midnight. But on Election Night she had special reason to do so: She was waiting for Barack Obama to mention her name. Cooper, one of the oldest voters for the nation's first black president, had been tipped off by the Obama campaign that she would be mentioned in his acceptance speech. Toward the end, she got her moment. "I was waiting for it," said Cooper. "I had heard that they would be calling my name at least."

Obama introduced the world to a woman who "was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons - because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin."

"Tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America - the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can," he said.

On Wednesday, Cooper beamed as she greeted reporters at her southwest Atlanta home, wearing a gold cross around her neck that proudly displayed her age.

Cooper first registered to vote on Sept. 1, 1941. Though she was friends with elite black Atlantans like W.E.B. Du Bois, John Hope Franklin and Benjamin E. Mays, because of her status as a black woman in a segregated and sexist society, she didn't exercise her right to vote for years.

Instead, she deferred to her husband - Dr. Albert B. Cooper, a prominent Atlanta dentist - who "voted for the house."

Her husband died in 1967. Cooper has outlived three of her four children and lived to see women gain the right to vote and the end of segregation. On Oct. 16, she voted early for the Illinois senator, who called to thank her after reading a news article about her.

Cooper said she believes Obama's win could finally signal the change she has been waiting for.

"I feel nothing but relief that things have changed as much as they have," she said. "After a while, we will all be one. That's what I look forward to."

Cooper turns 107 in January, just a few weeks before Obama's inauguration.


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