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Honoring a Legend

There is a move in Walton County to have a road or a school named after its most famous resident, Besse Cooper, the world's oldest living person.

When she stepped off the train in , Ga., she didn’t know a single person. Loganville was the end of the line, and the young teacher still had to find a way to Between. Henry Hodges, the stationmaster, gave her a ride to the lodgings she had already arranged for herself in Between. In the years that followed, she told her family that when that stationmaster left, she felt she had just said goodbye to her very last friend in the world.

The year was 1917 and the young teacher was Besse (pronounced Bess) Berry Brown, now Besse Cooper, Walton County, and indeed the world’s, most famous resident. Cooper, at 115, is the world’s oldest living person on record and there is a group in Loganville that believe it’s about time she got some permanent recognition for that distinction.

“We have world history living right here in Walton County,” said former Loganville mayor Junior Hall at the April TRIAD meeting. He was speaking on behalf of the Loganville Lions’ Club, a group intent on getting Cooper permanent recognition in Walton County. “She needs that recognition now. I would like to see a road in the county named after her or maybe a school.”

Cooper’s son, Sidney Cooper, said it was to take up a teaching position in Between that his mother originally made the move to Walton County.

“She met Vera and Tom Allgood from Loganville when they were teaching in Tennessee and they encouraged her to move to Walton County where she could make more money,” he said. “So she moved here and doubled her salary to $70 a month.”

Sydney Cooper said his mother also taught for a year in Loganville at a school in Piney Grove.

“She then went back to Between, where she was really the principal in a two-roomed school,” he said.

Besse Cooper eventually married Luther Cooper, Sydney Cooper’s father, and went on to have four children, 12 grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.

Sydney Cooper said his mother originally purchased a home in Between before buying a home on Troy Smith Road. Her family and the Loganville Lions, however, are not the only people looking to have Walton County’s most famous resident honored. State Rep. Tom Kirby said he would get with Rep. Bruce Williamson and see what can be done. In the meantime, Hall encouraged everyone to contact their Walton County commissioners and state representatives and urge them to consider naming a school or a road after the young teacher who came to Walton County 95 years ago and never left.

Born in Sullivan County, Tenn. on August 26, 1896, Cooper will be 116 on her next birthday. She currently lives in a nursing home in Monroe, Ga.

Sharon Swanepoel April 20, 2012 at 02:03 PM
I agree Tom. There is a new school to be built for the Loganville area that is not that far from Between and Piney Grove - maybe that should be a serious consideration!
Donna April 20, 2012 at 02:08 PM
I thought Walton County had a policy of not naming schools after people, just to avoid the inevitable "how come she gets a school named after her and so-and-so doesn't" arguments. That seems to be a sound policy and should be left in place.
Tom Winslett April 20, 2012 at 02:17 PM
That may be a policy of Walton County. But let's see do any other counties have the worlds oldest lady in their county who has given her professional life to education. And yes, policies can be changed!
Kristin Phelps April 20, 2012 at 03:24 PM
Great article and idea, if anyone is interested in supercentenarians(people over 110 years old) we track all verified living supercentenarians at http://www.livingsupercentenarians.com .
Sharon Swanepoel April 21, 2012 at 03:29 AM
Thank you very much for this link Kristin. Amazing.

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