Duncan Brown Cooper

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Cooper, c. 1908

Duncan Brown Cooper (1844-1922) was an American journalist, publisher and Democratic politician.[1] He served both in the Tennessee House of Representatives and in the Tennessee Senate.[1][2][3]


Early life[edit]

He was born at "Mulberry Hill" near Columbia in Maury County, Tennessee in 1844.[1][3] His father was Matthew Delamere Cooper (1792-1878) and his mother, Marian Witherspoon (Brown) Cooper (1822-1861), who was his father's third wife.[3] His half-brother was Judge William Frierson Cooper (1820–1909), a member of the Tennessee Supreme Court who owned the Riverwood Mansion. His sister Sarah married Dr. Lucius Burch, a Dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Their son, Lucius E. Burch, Jr., was his nephew. He attended Jefferson College in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, now known as Washington & Jefferson College.[3]


Murder trial of Duncan and Robin Cooper, 1909

During the American Civil War of 1861-1865, he fought in the Confederate States Army.[1] He was captured at Fort Donelson.[1]

After the war, he was elected a Democratic state congressman in 1881 and senator in 1895.[1][3] He was also the publisher of the Nashville American, a conservative Democratic daily newspaper.[1] He worked on the gubernatorial of Malcolm R. Patterson, who went on to serve as Governor of Tennessee from 1907 to 1911.[1] Both Cooper and Patterson were opposed to prohibition.[1] His gubernatorial opponent, Edward W. Carmack, who was the editor of The Tennessean, grew embittered and published scathing articles about Cooper.[1][4]

On November 9, 1908, Cooper and his son Robin encountered Carmack on a Nashville street.[1][4] Carmack fired first on the father and son, wounding the son.[1] He retaliated, killing Carmack.[1][2][4][5] Some accounts suggested it was premeditated murder.[6][7] During the first trial, both Cooper and his son Robin were convicted of second-degree murder and twenty years in prison.[1][5] Governor Patterson granted a pardon to Cooper and saved him from jail.[1][5] Shortly after, Robin was granted a second trial and released.[1][5] However, he was still vilified in the temperance press and shunned by Nashvillians.[1][6] The pardoning of Cooper ultimately doomed the political career of Governor Patterson.[8]

Personal life[edit]

In 1865, he married his first wife, Florence Fleming (1843-1870), and they had three children.[3] In the 1870s, he married his second wife, Mary Polk Jones (1856-1893), and they had five children.[3] He inherited Riverwood from his brother's death in 1909 to his own in 1922.[9] He was buried in the cemetery of Zion Presbyterian Church in Columbia, Tennessee.[3]


  • James Summerville, The Carmack-Cooper Shooting: Tennessee Politics Turns Violent, November 9, 1908 (1994), 219 pages.[10]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Timothy P. Ezzell, Duncan Brown Cooper, The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, December 25, 2009
  2. ^ a b COL. DUNCAN B. COOPER DIES; Death Recalls His Conviction for Slaying Former Tennessee Senator., The New York Times, November 05, 2002
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Tennessee State Library and Archives: COOPER, DUNCAN BROWN (1844-1922) Papers
  4. ^ a b c Joe Coker, Liquor in the Land of the Lost Cause: Southern White Evangelicals and the Prohibition Movement, Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky, 2007, p. 74, [1]
  5. ^ a b c d Jackie Sheckler Finch, Nashville, Globe Pequot, 2009, p. 98 [2]
  6. ^ a b William R. Majors, Editorial Wild Oats: Edward Ward Carmack and Tennessee Politics, Mercer University Press, 1984, pp. 147-148 [3]
  7. ^ William A. Harper, How You Played the Game: The Life of Grantland Rice, University of Missouri Press, 1999, p. 114 [4]
  8. ^ Timothy Ezzell, "Malcolm R. Patterson," Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. Retrieved: 1 April 2014.
  9. ^ Riverwood Mansion, History
  10. ^ Google Books