Judiciary Remembers Justice Robert E. Cooper, Sr.

July 12, 2016

Chief Justice Sharon Lee’s statement on the passing of former Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Robert E. Cooper, Sr.:

The entire judicial family is saddened by the passing of former Tennessee Supreme Court Justice and Chief Justice Robert E. Cooper, Sr. and extends condolences to his family, friends, and all who had the pleasure of working closely with him. Justice Cooper was highly respected by members of the judiciary and legal community. He diligently served this great state for nearly forty years as a public servant. A Chattanooga native, he left a proud and lasting legacy by his strong intellect, and his tireless work and commitment to his state, his community, his church and the judiciary. 

He served as a Justice on the Tennessee Supreme Court from 1974 to 1990. He served two terms as Chief Justice. During his tenure, the court made many important changes, including the adoption of a more uniform Code of Judicial Conduct, creation of the Board of Professional Responsibility, and adoption of rules of evidence and rules of criminal and appellate procedure. During Justice Cooper’s time on the bench, he served as chair of the Tennessee Judicial Council and the Tennessee Code Commission and was a member of the Tennessee Judicial Standards Committee.

Before serving on the Supreme Court, he served as a judge on the Tennessee Court of Appeals from 1960 to 1974, as a Circuit Court Judge in Hamilton County from 1953 to 1960, and as an assistant attorney general from 1951 to 1953. He practiced law in Chattanooga from 1949 until 1951. He graduated with his B.A. from the University of North Carolina in 1946 and his J.D. from Vanderbilt University in 1949, Order of the Coif and member of the Vanderbilt Law Review. 

Justice Cooper is survived by his wife, Catherine Kelly Cooper, who also earned her law degree; his daughters Susan Hodges, Bobbie Martin, and Kelly Smith; his son, Robert E. Cooper, Jr., who is an attorney with Bass Berry & Sims and served as the Tennessee Attorney General from 2006 to 2014; and six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

The family will receive friends from 4-8 p.m. on Friday, July 15, at East Chapel, Chattanooga Funeral Home, 404 South Moore Road.  Services will be on Saturday, July 16, 11 a.m. at Second Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga, 700 Pine Street, with visitation in the church beginning at 10 a.m. Burial will be at Chattanooga National Cemetery at a later date. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Shriners Hospital for Children, Second Presbyterian Church, and Hospice of Chattanooga.

Pictured: The members of the Tennessee Supreme Court in 1984 - (Left to Right) William J. Harbison, William H.D. Fones, Robert E. Cooper, Sr., C.J., Ray L. Brock, Frank F. Drowota, III.