Joe Cooper Passed Away:- He was an American former Shelby County and he died in April 2022. He was 76 years old. Joe Cooper, the former Shelby County official who carried a lead for the FBI in some of the Memphis area’s most high-profile political corruption cases in recent years, has died.
Over a long and colorful career, he has officiated at hundreds of weddings and done business with celebrities such as Jerry Lee Lewis and Jerry Lawler. He had served on Shelby County’s main governing body in the 1970s but left after his conviction for bank fraud.
After that, he ran for office several times but never won. Even after being convicted in a second case in the 2000s, and as his health deteriorated, he hoped for a comeback.
Who Is Joe Cooper?
“I’m a different person than I was many years ago. I love Memphis and Shelby County,” he told The Commercial Appeal in 2020 as he considered another run. “He lived, I think, for politics. And when he wasn’t in the middle of it all, he felt like a fish out of water,” his wife, Elizabeth Cooper, said. said Tuesday.
He fell ill on New Year’s Day and was taken by ambulance to the hospital, where he tested positive for COVID-19 – he was not vaccinated, she said. He died on Jan. 30 during the second of two long hospital stays that month, his wife said. Doctors had diagnosed several medical issues and it was unclear if the virus was the primary cause of her death, she said.
Cooper’s death attracted little attention.
His wife said she and her husband had lost contact with most of their friends and family members, and she did not know how to reach her two sons from a previous marriage. She said she lacked the funds to hold a service and the county government had taken over her body for burial.
She contacted The Commercial Appeal this week to bring the public’s attention to his passing.
“The Married Squire”
Joe Cooper called her Betsy, rather than Elizabeth, and they would have celebrated their 37th wedding anniversary in June, she said. Both were previously married, said Elizabeth Cooper, now 84. Joe Cooper was elected to the Quarterly Court, the predecessor of the current County Commission, in 1972. Members of the corps were known as squires. Cooper was known as the wedding squire because he performed hundreds of weddings, The Commercial Appeal reported in a 1992 profile.
He had helped secure funds for the Libertyland amusement park and the Criminal Justice Center. He was forced to give up his seat in the county government after being convicted in a federal bank fraud case in 1977. He then went to a prison camp for four months. Later, he was active in Democratic politics and held government positions, including the office of the assessor and the office of the criminal court clerk.
Cooper ran various business ventures, including selling cars and collaborating with star musician Jerry Lee Lewis in 1993 to start a short-lived nightclub on Beale Street. He worked with wrestler Jerry Lawler in 2010 on plans for a wrestling-themed restaurant. Lawler later withdrew his intention to use his name and likeness. Myron Lowery, the former Memphis City Council member, and former acting mayor cooperated with Cooper on a project in the 1990s.
“He recommended building a casino on Mud Island that would be owned by an Indian tribe,” Lowery recently recalled. “And I supported that decision. Nothing came of it. But Joe always had new ideas about how to create new revenue streams for the city and a county.” Lowery, who is now City Court clerk, also recalled Cooper’s lobbying work.
“He was a wheel dealer. He made deals for people. He lobbied the city council for various projects.” Many of these projects involved billboards – Cooper worked for billboard magnate William B. Tanner for years.
In 2006, federal agents approached Cooper and confronted him with evidence of his involvement in a scheme to help drug dealers buy Cadillacs on other people’s behalf. Cooper agreed to become an informant in an undercover operation called Operation Main Street Sweeper.
Wearing recording gear, Cooper gave money to city council members Rickey Peete and Edmund Ford Sr. Peete later pleaded guilty – it was his second conviction for corruption in office. Ford took his case to court. The case involved payments totaling $8,900 that Ford allegedly received in exchange for political favors.
Ford testified that the money was a business loan for his funeral home, not a bribe. Jurors found Ford not guilty. He currently sits on the city council. Cooper was later sentenced to six months in prison.