Portrait: Senate of Pennsylvania
Senator “Red Headed and Hopeful” Tom Cooper was born in Cadiz, Ohio on January 16, 1835, the son of physician Dr. J.W. Cooper and the former Henrietta Fields of West Chester. He attended common schools, the Joshua Hoopes Boarding School, and later entered the printing business as an apprentice for the Wilmington Republican. At age 20, he combined his talent with Dr. D.A. Vernon in the establishment of the Media Advertiser and Delaware County American. Cooper changed the paper’s flag in 1859 to the American, the senator remaining a primary contributor to the paper’s editorial page throughout his life. Cooper’s political commentary greatly influenced Delaware County’s Republican partisans, who supported Lincoln during the Civil War. The senator served as an alternate delegate to the 1860 Chicago Republican Convention, diverting his votes from Simon Cameron to Abraham Lincoln, playing a pivotal role in the nomination of Abe. At the outset of the Civil War, Thomas helped organize Company F of the Fourth Pennsylvania Regiment and later enlisted in Hartranft’s Company C, 26th Regiment, serving three years in the Army of the Potomac. He mustered-out at Independence Hall, June 14, 1864, having served in 13 major engagements, including York Town, Seven Pines, Savage Station, White Oak Swamp, Malvern Hill, Second Bull Run, Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, and Spotsylvania Court House. He received an appointment as director of government printing from Secretary of War Stanton in 1865, emerged as publisher of the Soldier’s Journal, and eventually turned down a permanent appointment as director of the Bureau of Military Printing.
Thomas later published the Republican American, represented Delaware County in the State House of Representatives, 1870-72, and was elected to the state Senate in 1872. Cooper defied Simon Cameron during the McClure-Gray, 1872 “New Departure” Senate fight, a stand that gained Tom respect for his unswerving principle. During the session, Greeley Liberal Republicans attempted to bribe Thomas with $85,000, offering him the chair of the faction’s state committee, a position from which he might lead the legislature in impeachment proceedings against Auditor General and gubernatorial candidate John Hartranft, Cooper’s former commanding officer. Known as the Evans scandal, Tom immediately revealed the attempted fraud to the legislature, thereby crushing the Liberal Republican movement in Pennsylvania and regaining the gratitude of Simon Cameron.
From 1873, Senator Cooper served 17 consecutive years in the upper house, eight as legislative caucus leader (also referred to as floor leader), and one session (1878) as president pro tempore. He chaired Corporations, 1874-76, 1883-84; Railroads, 1877; Finance, 1880-82; and acted as the key state Senate liaison for U.S. Senator Matt Quay, chairing Federal Relations, 1885-90. From 1881 to 1889, Cooper served the Republican Party as chair of the State Central Committee and became advisor-counsel to Matthew Quay and the Republican National Committee. Cooper’s national party prominence as a GOP political manager rose to new heights in 1888, as New Jersey Republican state chairman Garrett Hobart sought Tom’s help during a spirited campaign in South Jersey against the upstart “Personal Liberty League.” Cooper became Collector of the Port of Philadelphia in 1889, returned to Harrisburg as a state representative, 1900-09; and helped supervise construction of the new capitol building. He led the fight for repeal of the 1897 libel law, and in 1900, promoted the re-election of Matt Quay to the U.S. Senate. Tom served as GOP state committee treasurer in 1902, capping a career of life-long dedication to the Republican organization.
Cooper was a Mason, a member of the Bradbury Post - Grand Army of the Republic, and author of American Politics. The scholarly Cooper wrote and published the latter work in 13 subsequent editions. He married Ada F. Turner in 1858, the daughter of a Philadelphia publisher and grandniece of Betsy Ross. Falling asleep, while preparing a Christmas list for his relatives, the Honorable Thomas V. Cooper died in his Media home after a freak fire engulfed his room, most likely, the result of an ash falling from his trademark cigar. Having returned to the state House in 1901, at his death on December 19, 1909, he remained a member of the legislature, enjoying his 27th year in the service of the Commonwealth.
Philadelphia Inquirer, August 17, 1888; December 20, 1909; Rodearmel, 1905;