Posted on Sun, Oct 5, 2008
An Inspiring Story of the Roy Cooper Jr. Family by Mrs. Rachel Edwards
When most people hear the names of Roy Cooper, Jr. and his wife, Beverly, they think immediately of their law offices in Nashville, North Carolina, but they served a higher judge all their lives, Jesus Christ, the Lord. Roy Cooper, Jr. grew up in the country in Nash County. His parents were poor, and they sacrificed many things they really needed in order to save for the education of their children. They drove old cars that were in bad shape, and they farmed for a living. As they brought their children up, they instilled in them the importance of honesty, hard work, dependability, and kindness.
Roy remembers one incident in which a neighbor who lived next door had a farm bordering his family’s land. The neighbor was disagreeable. He used profanity not used in the Cooper home. One day when the Coopers were cleaning the line between them, he approached Roy’s father and told him that the boundary line was too far over on his side, implying the Coopers were claiming some of his land. Roy’s father walked to the corner stake with the neighbor and offered to move it where he wanted it. The neighbor’s attitude seemed to change at that moment, and he told him to leave it there. Then he walked away.
On another occasion, Roy’s father found a stranger sleeping in the corn crib. He walked into the kitchen and told his wife about the man he had seen. She told him to go back and invite him to breakfast. The man accepted. At breakfast, Mrs. Cooper began to pile up food on the man’s plate as she questioned him about where he was from. All the man would tell here was “up the road,” but he still got a delicious hot meal. When he was finished, he got up and said, “You’re a real nice lady.” Roy learned valuable lessons about how to treat people from his parents.
Roy, Jr. was in Sunday school by age 4 and was baptized at 15. He was active in Elm Grove Baptist Church where his family attended. It was a small church, not able to hire a pastor, so the seminary students at Wake Forest came on Sundays to supply the church. The ladies from the church took turns feeding the preachers. Roy’s family had the preachers over for lunch more than their share of the time, and by the time Roy entered Wake Forest University, these same preachers often gave him a ride back to school. It was on those long rides back to school that the conversations Roy had with the ministers strengthened his faith and solidified his relationship with God.
Both Roy’s parents believed in education, although neither one of them ever finished high school. When their son finished at Wake Forest, he wanted to do something professionally that would be a positive influence on others. He wanted also to help those in need. He saw that the legal profession would be a way to do God’s work; therefore, he chose to pursue a degree in law at the University of North Carolina.
When he completed his education, there was one decision Mr. Cooper made that set the stage for the rest of his career. He was invited by Milton Fields, a man of strong Christian principles, to partner with him in law. “The two of us working together,” said Mr. Cooper, “were able to establish a law firm that people could trust.”
Through the years, Mr. Cooper helped endless people through the practice, especially widows who knew little about their husbands’ financial business when they passed away. In each case, Mr. Cooper did his best to help them and gain their trust. He charged only as much as the person could afford, sometimes nothing. During this time he worked with a client named Maggie Walker, now deceased, who gave him an inscribed book of devotions that he still keeps in his drawer. He really appreciated her and shared her faith.
He represented young and old in multiple aspects of the law. Once, while practicing criminal law, he defended a young man who had been in trouble with the law several times. He counseled with him and tried to help him see the error of his ways. The young man had promised to stay out of trouble, but he always ended up in court. As Mr. Cooper worked with him and tried to help him, the young man began to promise not to return to crime, and Mr. Cooper believed him. Unfortunately, after several appearances, he was found guilty in court, and he was loaded onto a bus headed for prison. Mr. Cooper rushed into the judge’s office and pleaded with the judge to change the order. With great reluctance, the judge reversed the decision and wrote an order for probation instead. Mr. Cooper took the order and rushed out of the office to find the young man. He was already on the bus, leaving for the prison. Mr. Cooper ran over and knocked on the door of the bus just in time, and the door opened. He waved the new order. The prisoner was released to him. They went back into his office and discussed what had just happened and what changes the young man was going to have to make in his life. The young man eventually realized the error of his ways and never returned to crime. He still maintains contact with Mr. Cooper.
Mr. Cooper was always careful in selecting the people he would support politically. He wanted to make sure they had the same Christian convictions as he. When Jim Hunt was running for Governor, he headed up his Nash County campaign, and did the same for three other gubernatorial candidates. He and Jim Hunt still remain friends today.
Mr. and Mrs. Cooper were blessed with two sons, Roy Cooper, III, who is currently the North Carolina Attorney General, and Pell Cooper, who is a District Court Judge. When the children were infants, their father would go in each night and pray over their cribs. He wanted to instill in his own children the Christian principles his father taught him. When they were old enough to work, they primed tobacco and did other farm chores. Mr. Cooper always talked to his boys about living a Christian life and getting their education. He prayed with them and talked to them about their futures. God was always at the center of his relationship with his children. Roy Cooper, III and his wife, Kristin, now have three children of their own: Hilary, who is now in her third year of law school; Natalie, age 15; and Claire, age 13. Their family attends White Memorial Church in Raleigh. Pell and his wife, Meredith, a concert violinist, have one child, Marelle, who is 9 years old. Pell’s family attends the First Presbyterian Church in Rocky Mount. Mr. Cooper’s son, Roy, III continues to call his parents every day, just to talk and express his love and appreciation for them.
Mrs. Beverly Cooper was the only child of Pell and Ethel Bachelor.
She grew up in Nashville not far from her current address. Her father, Pell, died when she was 11 years old, but her mother later married G. C. Collins, who was a very good stepfather to her.
Beverly had always wanted to be a teacher, but God had other plans. Instead of pursuing a teaching degree, Beverly attended Meredith College and received a degree in religion. She gave up the teaching idea and began to study the Bible and the great Christian thinkers. She spent a great deal of time in prayer and meditation. As a result, she wanted to attend the seminary, but she fell in love with Roy Cooper, Jr., married and had two wonderful sons.
“God did not let me forget my life-long dream of becoming a teacher, however,” said Beverly. “Early in my married life, Mr. C.H. Fries, then the Superintendent of Schools, called me and said, ‘I need you to teach English at Red Oak High School. We’re short a teacher.’ I protested,” she said, “that I had no certificate, little training, and only a minor in English. After prayerful consideration and a great deal of faith that somehow God would help me do this, I agreed to give it a try. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that my subjects would be not only English, but French and business arithmetic as well.” Beverly remembers that Bill Ennis, the teacher next door to her classroom, helped her tremendously with business arithmetic and discipline. If she had a problem student, he would let the student sit in the back of his room. Beverly loved teaching and went on to pursue her teaching credentials with no regrets. She also taught at Coopers and Nash Central. These jobs would later prove to be beneficial in helping her overcome the challenges that lay ahead.
In 1976 Beverly found a lump in her breast that ended up in full-blown breast cancer. The surgery was severe. “Back in those days,” she said, “everything was removed, including bone, muscle, nodes, and tissue of all kinds. Even with two reconstructive surgeries, I still have bumps and indentations where there should be none. I was in the hospital six weeks physically recovering from the surgery. When I returned home, I was admirably calm; everybody bragged about how brave I was. I never cried. I didn’t even think about going back to work at Nash Central. Sometimes during the night Roy would burst into tears, and I would hold him. He is embarrassed about that now, but I continue to tell him that his tears helped me more than anything he could have done. I could not cry for myself.” Roy had been told that the cancer was serious, and that his wife would probably have only six months to live, but he kept that to himself and did not tell her.
“Finally,” Beverly continued, “I went to Duke Hospital for a full body bone scan designed to see how much the cancer had spread. They told me to call the next day for a report. I was sitting on my bed, holding the phone when I dialed the number,” she said. “Suddenly I began to tremble, so much so that I could not hold the phone. I had to lie down and prop the phone on the pillow as I waited for the response. As I listened to the nurse assure me that the scan was fine, that there was no sign that the cancer had spread, I could hardly speak to say, ‘Thank you.’ I somehow managed to get the phone back on the hook. Then I cried. I sobbed. I prayed for strength, for guidance. Next, I telephoned my pastor, Dowd Davis, and made an appointment. I knew that God would work through this wonderful counselor to help me find His will for me, and He did. I do not believe that God gave me cancer so that I would be a better person, but I do know that our family relationships and my life have meaning and depth that might never have been possible without this experience. I remember that wonderful morning that I woke up, smiled, and said, ‘Thank you, God. You know, I might live’”!
Beverly returned to teaching at Nash Central with a new hope for survival. Even though she took chemotherapy, she still remained positive. She went on to receive her Master’s in education and French. She later taught at Southern Junior High and Nash Senior High. Beverly said that the students gave her such joy that she was never nauseated from the chemo while they were in class. As soon as they left for the day, she began to feel it. The cancer returned in 1981, but God blessed her to recover.
Later in life, Beverly returned to Meredith College and earned a paralegal degree. She joined her husband in the law office and has worked there ever since. Mr. Cooper was recently inducted into the North Carolina Bar Association’s Hall of Fame.
“Whenever I meet former students who tell me that life has been better for them than it would have been had they not been in my class,” states Beverly, “my heart is warmed. Teaching school was truly God’s plan for me, and I am thankful to the people in my life who helped me keep on that path.”
“I am fortunate man,” states Mr. Cooper. “God has given me so much. I hope and pray each day that when and if misfortune falls on me and my family, we will be able to find God’s will for us in those circumstances and trust Him to sustain us. Following the teachings of Christ and doing well is easy when everything is right. I’ve had only one serious adversity to face in my life. God saw us through those trying times and helped us grow because of it. I pray daily that I will always be able to see His will for me in any circumstance and always remember that He is there for me.”
Roy Cooper, Jr. has written his first book, entitled Between the Creeks: My Sapony Adventures. The book includes memories of his youth in Nash County and his adventures with friends and family. It should be published by the end of the summer of 2008.
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