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William Prentice Cooper

Gov. William Prentice Cooper

  • January 16, 1939 - January 16, 1945
  • Democratic
  • September 28, 1895
  • May 18, 1969
  • Tennessee
  • Vanderbilt University; Princeton University; Harvard University
  • Married Hortense Powell; three children
  • Ambassador


WILLIAM PRENTICE COOPER was born in Shelbyville, Tennessee. He attended Vanderbilt University for two years and received his bachelor of arts degree from Princeton University in 1917. He served as a Second Lieutenant in World War I, and went on to receive an LL.B. from Harvard University in 1921. After being admitted to the Bar the following year, he practice law in Shelbyville and Lewisburg and served as city Attorney in both places. He served one term each in the state House and Senate and for two years as Attorney General of the 8th Judicial Assembly before becoming governor. As governor, he reduced the state debt by the largest amount ever while at the same time increasing educational funding by sixty-six percent, doubling appropriations for old-age assistance, and ensuring the provision of free textbooks for the lower grades. In addition, during Cooper’s administration, a statewide system of tuberculosis hospitals was begun, and forest and park lands were increased. Cooper chaired the Southern Governors’ Association in 1943 and 1944. After leaving office, he served as Ambassador to Peru for two years, presided over the Tennessee Constitutional Convention of 1953, and chaired the state’s delegation to the Democratic National Convention in 1944. He was also a member of the Tennessee Historical Commission from 1941 until his death in Rochester, Minnesota. He is buried in his home county of Bedford, Tennessee.


Past Governors of Tennessee

Philips, Margaret I. The Governors of Tennessee. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing Company, 2001.

Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 4. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.

White, Robert H. Messages of the Governors of Tennessee, 1933-1945. Nashville: The Tennessee Historical Commission, Vol. 11, 1952.

Recent Tennessee Governors