Besse Berry Cooper (August 26, 1896 – December 4, 2012) was an American woman who was verified by the Guinness World Records as the oldest person in the world from the death of Brazilian woman Maria Gomes Valentim on June 21, 2011 until her death on December 4, 2012. She was previously thought to have held the title of the world's oldest living person from the death of Eunice Sanborn on January 31 until May 18, 2011, when Valentim was verified by the Guinness World Records. She is one of three people to have regained the status of world's oldest living person, with the other two being Jeanne Calment and Elizabeth Bolden. Cooper was also the last living person in the world to have been born in the year 1896, as well as the oldest person ever born in that year.
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 in the world from June 2011 until her death, and last known living person born in 1896|
|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.
In her final years, Cooper lived in a nursing home in Monroe, Georgia. She had all four of her children, 11 grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and 2 great-great grandchildren. In August 2012, a bridge in Between was named the "Besse Brown Cooper Bridge" in her honour.
- January 19, 2009 – Beatrice Farve died. Cooper, aged 112 years, 146 days, became the oldest living person in the U.S. state of Georgia.
- January 31, 2011 – Eunice Sanborn died. Cooper, aged 114 years, 158 days, became the oldest living person in the United States of America. She was thought to have been the oldest person in the world until May 18, 2011.
- May 18, 2011 – Maria Gomes Valentim is verified by the Guinness World Records as the world's oldest living person.
- June 21, 2011 – Maria Gomes Valentim died. Cooper, aged 114 years, 299 days, regained the title of world's oldest living person.
- December 2, 2011 – Chiyono Hasegawa died. Cooper, aged 115 years, 98 days, became the last known living person born in 1896.
- April 11, 2012 – Cooper, aged 115 years, 229 days, lived to be older than Charlotte Hughes, becoming one of the 10 oldest verified people.
- August 26, 2012 – Cooper became the eighth verified person to reach the age 116, and the first to do so since Elizabeth Bolden, who celebrated her 116th birthday on August 15, 2006.
- December 4, 2012 – Cooper died at the age of 116 years, 100 days, leaving Italian-American woman, Dina Manfredini, to become the oldest person in the world.
Maria Gomes Valentim
| Oldest recognized living person
June 21, 2011 – December 4, 2012