Besse Berry Cooper (August 26, 1896 – December 4, 2012) was an American woman who was, at the time of her death, the youngest of only 6 verified people (all of whom were women) who had become at least 116 years old, the oldest living person in the United States since Eunice Sanborn's death on January 31, 2011 and also believed to be the world's oldest living person. However, Brazilian woman Maria Gomes Valentim was on May 18, 2011 confirmed to be almost 7 weeks older, which made her the oldest living person from Frenchwoman Eugénie Blanchard's death on November 4, 2010 and Cooper the oldest living person from her death on June 21, 2011, just 18 days before her 115th birthday. Later on December 2 that year, when Japanesewoman Chiyono Hasegawa died 12 days after celebrating her 115th birthday, Cooper also became the last living person born in 1896. Cooper is (except from possibly disputed Frenchwoman Jeanne Calment) one of two people to have regained the status of world's oldest living person, with the other being Elizabeth Bolden.
Besse Berry Brown
August 26, 1896
|Died||December 4, 2012|
(aged 116 years, 100 days)
|Education||East Tennessee State Normal School|
|Known for||Oldest living person June 21, 2011 – December 4, 2012|
|Spouse(s)||Luther Harris Cooper|
(m. 1924–w. 1963)
|Parent(s)||Richard Brown and Angeline Berry|
|Relatives||4 children, 11 grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren, 2 great-great-grandchildren|
Besse Cooper was born as Besse Berry Brown in Sullivan County in Tennessee on August 26, 1896. She was the third of eight children of Richard Brown and Angeline Berry. She graduated from East Tennessee State Normal School (now East Tennessee State University) in 1916. While a college student, she joined the so-called first wave of feminism in the United States, becoming a suffragette, joining the struggle for women's right to vote. The dedication of suffragettes like Besse, after some four decades of struggle by a fierce women's movement, resulted in the United States finally recognizing women as having the same right to vote as men, awarding them equal voting rights in all states. Besse's home state of Tennessee would prove the state which tipped the balance, being the 36th state needed to ratify and thus approve the Nineteenth Amendment be added to the U.S. Constitution in August 1920. She worked as a school teacher until the time of America's entrance to World War I in 1917, when she moved to Georgia. She taught in the Walton County town of Between until 1929, being the principal teacher in a one-room schoolhouse. She was married to Luther Cooper from 1924 until his death in 1963 with whom she had four children. She also had eleven grandchildren, thirteen great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren. In her final years, Cooper lived in a nursing home in Monroe, Georgia. In August 2012, a bridge in Between was named the "Besse Brown Cooper Bridge" in her honour.
Cooper died of respiratory failure on December 4, 2012 at age 116 years, 100 days, and was succeeded as the oldest living person by Italian-born Americanwoman Dina Manfredini, who died just 13 days later, and was at the time of her death the youngest of only 6 verified people who had become at least 116 years old.