Former Cincinnati Vice Mayor Minette Cooper, who made Cincinnati a better place after the 2001 riots, died Sunday at the age of 73.
David Pepper, who served on Cooper city council from 2001 to 2003, the time immediately following the riots that broke out after a police officer murdered an unarmed black man in Cincinnati, said the city council worked together from that time.
“Nine people who really crossed party lines and helped move our city forward in a difficult time,” said Pepper. Along with Cooper, that council consisted of some of the biggest names in Cincinnati politics: Pepper, Pat DeWine, Alicia Reece, John Cranley, Jim Tarbell, and the late David Crowley. Paul Booth and Chris Monzel.
“I’ve learned so much from her, about grace, empathy and diplomacy, about the work of bringing people together, about the value of human service, about courage in the midst of health challenges,” said Pepper, who later served as the commissioner of Hamilton County and chaired the Democratic Party of Ohio.
“My first foray into public service was such a pleasure because of Cincinnati greats like Minette and David Crowley,” added Pepper. “What a privilege it was to serve with them. Little did I know then how seldom the spirit of that first council would end.”
Cooper, of North Avondale, served on the council from 1995 to 2003 and served as vice mayor from 1997 to 1999.
Former Mayor Charlie Luken, who worked with Cooper, said Cooper was “first and foremost a kind person.”
In 2011, 10 years after the riots, Cooper told The Enquirer that the riots allowed Cincinnatians to look at themselves and ask the question, ‘What have we done wrong in Cincinnati that there is civil unrest in the 21st century would come?'”
“We had to answer that question and it brought us all together,” she said. “We still have a long way to go. As a city, however, we are much better, especially when it comes to relations with the Citizens Police, we know how far to go. ‘”
Cooper was born in Atlanta and moved to Louisville and Indianapolis where she graduated from high school.
She went to Howard University and earned a degree in special education. There she met her husband Dr. Know Emmett Cooper. They moved to California for a short time after college, but after Emmett Cooper finished his stint at the University of Cincinnati, they decided to stay, her son Curtis said.
Cooper helped run her husband’s medical practice and in the early 1990s decided to use her passion to help children by running for the Cincinnati School Board.
She lost that race, but in 1995 she ran and won a council seat. Her victory was unusual in the pre-term era when council candidates sometimes had a failed election before they were elected.
In a promotional article, The Enquirer said Cooper “brings a welcome voice to families and children. Your priority is to be part of a council that can work together. “
Councilor Chris Seelbach, whose legislation helped make Cincinnati one of the most inclusive LGBTQ cities in the country, worked in Crowley’s office during Cooper’s tenure.
“I met Vice Mayor Minette Cooper when she spoke at dinner in Stonewall Cincinnati in 2000,” said Seelbach. “Under Article XII (which was repealed in 2004) it was amazing to see our city’s Afro-American Vice Mayor commenting on LGBTQ plus rights when it was unpopular,” said Seelbach. “Give courage”,
“She was a real civil servant,” said Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley.
Curtis Cooper said his mother took pride in being a runaway not indebted to anyone.
“My father funded her runs so she could always do the right thing for the city,” he said.
Minette Cooper earned a Master of Education degree from Xavier University in August 2008. She served on the Cincinnati Board of Health and the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority Board. She was also a member of The Links Inc.’s Cincinnati group, a voluntary service organization of professional black women.
Cooper is survived by her husband; Sons Emmett Jr. and Curtis; and daughter Minette.