JUDGE JOHN L. COOPER,
one of the leading members of the bar of Southern Illinois, was born on the fourth day of September, 1863, in Fairfield, which has always been his home. His father, John H. Cooper, who began his life as a citizen of Ohio in 1831, was one of the three sons of Whitson Cooper. He, together with his two brothers, Whitson N. and Calvin, came to Wayne county, Illinois, from Ohio, in 1854. The senior John Cooper, reared in Columbiana county, Ohio, and graduated from the Cincinnati Law School at the age of twenty-one, was a man of learning and intellect. Settling in Illinois the year after his graduation, he began the practice of his profession with a bright outlook for the future, both he and his brothers being soon recognized as young men of “parts.” The brother Calvin became one of the first county superintendents of schools in the new home.
Such was the situation at the outbreak of the Civil war. Before going to the front Mr. Cooper persuaded the woman of his choice to become his wife, that she might in reality be his “for better or for worse.” Leaving his bride of but a few short months and his growing legal practice, he bid final farewell to his glowing prospects and on the first day of October, 1862, was commissioned as regimental quartermaster of the Eighty-seventh Illinois Volunteer Infantry. During the siege of Vicksburg he contracted a fatal disease and died en route home on a furlough. His death took place on the fourth day of October, 1863, just one month after the birth of his only child, whom he was never permitted to hold in his arms.
The young wife, now almost simultaneously a mother and a widow, was a native daughter of Tennessee, whose natural sympathies might have been with those who had caused the death of her youthful husband. She had been brought to Illinois while still a child by her father, C. L. Organ, who was prominent among the early settlers of Wayne county, having arrived in the late forties. His brother, H. A. Organ, served the county as sheriff from 1858 until 1860.
Mrs. John H. Cooper, left alone with her infant son, whom she had named for his father, was herself little more than a child. About five years after her husband's death she became for the second time a wife. The man whom she honored with her hand was Joseph P. Ryder, a member of the well established and highly respected Ryder family who had
early come to Illinois from Hardin county, Ohio. Mr. Ryder served in the late rebellion as first lieutenant of Company D, the Fortieth Illinois Regiment. This detachment, known locally as the “Bill Newby Company,” saw much distingnished service and its first lieutenant never ceased to be a hero in his own land. For many years after the close of the war he was assistant postmaster of Fairfield, where his death occurred when about seventy-two years of age. By this second marriage Mrs. Cooper, now Mrs. Ryder, became the mother of four children, one son and three daughters, all but one of whom are living. Mary, the first born, is the wife of Reverend M. C. Jonson, pastor of the First Presbyterian church of Nacogdoches, Texas. Sylvester Paul, the only son, lives on a farm a mile and a half from Fairfield. Katie, the second daughter, passed away at the age of twelve, while Daisy Beall is still at home with her parents.
Judge John L. Cooper, whose soldier father was to him only a heroic name, was treated as an own son in the home of his stepfather. Like his younger brothers and sisters, he attended the elementary schools of Fairfield. His secondary education he received by tutoring with an aged minister who was a friend of' the family. During this period much time was devoted to the mastery of the classics, his knowledge of which the Judge has.never forgotten. After deciding upon the legal profession as his choice of a life vocation he entered the office of Judge Jacob R. Creighton, now a member of the circuit bench but at that time states attorney. From that office he was admitted to the bar in 1889 after which he became a member of the firm as junior partner to Judge Creighton, In the autumn of 1892 he was elected county judge on the Democratic ticket, serving in this capacity for one term. From 1897 until 1906 he acted as private secretary to Justice Carroll C. Boggs of the supreme court. The following year he again resumed his private practice, this time as senior member of the law firm of Cooper and Burgess. The general practice now claims most of his time, although his interest in public affairs has not waned. He has served his city and county in many minor capacities, even acting upon the board of education when it seemed to him a duty. For many years he has been a member of the State Historical Association, serving for some time past on the publication committee of that society. In fraternal organizations he remains active, being present chancellor commander of the Have-lock Lodge, No. 206, of the Knights of Pythias, In the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Lodge No. 32, he is past noble grand of Fairfield. In addition to these orders he belongs to several minor beneficiary societies.
In 1880 Judge Cooper was married to Minnie Harvey, the daughter of 0. W. and Inez Acker Harvey, formerly from Indiana. They have one daughter, whom they have called Inez for Mrs. Cooper's mother. Miss Inez will finish the course in the Fairfield high school in the class of 1913.
Mrs. Cooper is a devout member and active worker in the Christian church while the Judge hesitates to sever his connection with the denomination of his Presbyterian fathers. Judge Cooper stands well in the financial as well as in the professional and religious world. He is the owner of the attractive farm, a mile and a half from Fairfield on the east, which his half brother manages and cultivates.