06. Cooper Road

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    Cooper Road is located in Chandler, Arizona, and runs north and south along the borderline between the cities of Chandler and Gilbert. It was named after the prominent Cooper family which owned a dairy farm near Southern Avenue and Stapley Drive. The family’s most notable member was Jim Cooper, a member of Arizona’s House of Representatives.

    James Leroy Cooper was born on December 4, 1915 in Gilbert. He graduated from Gilbert High School and attended the University of Arizona. During college he met his wife, Mildred Post, a high school teacher, who lost her job when they wed, since at that time married women were not allowed to hold teaching posts.

    Cooper and his wife, Mildred Post Cooper, turned one cow, which had been a wedding present, into a four-hundred cow dairy farm. The Coopers had six children: Gary, Gayle, Morris, Conny, Newell, and Jan. Together they also had thirty-three grandchildren and fifty-seven great grandchildren.

    Jim Cooper was elected to the Arizona House of Representatives in 1968, and by that time he was a retired dairy farmer. He served nine terms in the House and retired in 1986. He served and represented Mesa in District 29. He was the chairman of the House Education Committee from 1977 to 1986, and was also a member of the following committees: Agriculture, Health and Aging, and Ways and Means.

    Cooper helped found the United Dairymen’s League and he was active in the Dairymen Association. During World War II he taught agriculture at Mesa High School. In 1984 Cooper led the way to pass a bill raising the legal drinking age from nineteen to twenty-one. Upon retirement the House of Representatives presented Cooper with “The Learning Tree” which he planted on the west lawn of the House building.

    The following are several notable quotes from Jim Cooper’s terms in the House of Representatives: “The Government is made to serve the people, and not the people to serve the government.” and “I consider myself to be a conservative, I also feel we should be concerned with the rights of individuals.”

    Cooper related the following story to Rosemary Schabert of the Mesa Tribune. In it he described how he became the chairman of the education committee. He was approached by House Speaker Stan Akers and Representative Frank Kelley: I was sitting here like I am right now. I’ve forgotten which one was first, but one of them stomped in and visited with me awhile and said, ‘What committees would you like to be on next year?’ I told him. He said, ‘Well, how would you like to be chairman of the education committee?’ I wasn’t asking to be chairman; I just wanted to be on the committee. Just about half an hour later the other one came by and we went through the same scenario. I guess they both had watched my philosophy and my way and they felt that I was capable of running the committee. So that’s how I got to be chairman. I wasn’t even asking for it.

    Cooper was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and held many posts during his lifetime, even becoming a bishop. His religious beliefs motivated him to fight many controversial legislative battles in the House, including the issues of abortion, drinking, smoking, and the theory of evolution and its role in the classroom.

    Jim Cooper’s father, Orson Prince Cooper, moved into the Gilbert/Mesa area in 1913 and lived there until his death in 1968. He too was a farmer and related stories of the problems of early farming in the valley to the young Jim. During the early 1900’s the groundwater was too high and, as a result, alkali, lime, and other minerals built up, leaving the soil unsuitable for growing crops. To solve this problem the early farmers of the area pumped the groundwater out into the desert so the water table would recede allowing irrigation water to sink into the water table taking the undesirable elements with it, and returning the ground to a fertile state.

    Jim Cooper passed away January 23, 2001 at the age of eighty-five. Mildred Post Cooper died several short months later in June of 2001.

    The Coopers were Arizona natives who created a wonderful heritage to pass along to the coming generations. From a single cow dairy farm to creating laws that affect every person in Arizona, the Cooper’s have earned their place in Chandler history and have rightly been honored with Cooper Road.

    By Richard Ruiz & Jamey Sackett

     

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