Troy University mourns loss of longtime friend Maj. Gen. J. Gary Cooper

Gen. Cooper is shown here with Director of Student Involvement Barbara Patterson and then-SGA President Jonathan McKenzie during a 2003 visit to TROY.

Gen. Cooper is shown here with Director of Student Involvement Barbara Patterson and then-SGA President Jonathan McKenzie during a 2003 visit to TROY.

Troy University mourns the passing of Maj. Gen. J. Gary Cooper, USMC ret., a Mobile native and a longtime friend of the University, who passed away April 27 at the age of 87.

“Major General Cooper was a great warrior, a treasured public servant, a  friend of Troy University and a valued, personal friend,” said Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr., Chancellor. “Gen. Cooper was larger than life.  He loved his country and his Corps of Marines.” In 1990 Troy University awarded him an Honorary Doctorate, of which he was very proud. He represented Alabama with great honor and integrity.”

Gen. Cooper was a trailblazer and a hero. While serving in Vietnam in 1967, he became the first African American officer in the Marine Corps to lead an infantry company into combat. His heroism earned him numerous decorations, including the Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts, and the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry three times.

Gen. Cooper also was a public servant, twice elected to the Alabama House of Representatives before resigning to serve as commissioner of the Alabama Department of Human Resources. In 1989, he was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, and in 1994, was appointed as Ambassador to Jamaica. Following his retirement from public service, Gen. Cooper later served as the University’s Ambassador-in-Residence.  In 2023, Gen. Cooper was inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor, a distinction accorded only 100 living Alabamians.

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