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Tue, 09.18.1888

Chicago’s Radio voice, Jack Cooper

Jack L. Cooper

*Jack Cooper was born on this date in 1888. He was a Black ventriloquist, vaudeville performer, and radio announcer.

From Memphis, TN. Jack L. Cooper was one of ten children of William and Lavina Cooper. Cooper quit school in the 5th grade to help support his family. He held a number of jobs and was a semi-pro baseball player and boxer, wining more than 100 bouts. In 1905, Cooper found part of his calling on the vaudeville stage as a singer and dancer. Cooper was more than a performer, he wrote and produced skits and entire shows with his first wife Estelle (who was also a performer). He began his professional career as a writer for the Chicago Defender as a theater critic, but his love was in performing and he hoped to do that in the new medium of radio.

After breaking into radio at a white-owned station in Washington, D.C., Cooper returned to Chicago to make his mark. His groundbreaking show, "The All-Negro Hour," debuted on Chicago's airwaves on November 3, 1929. Over the next thirty years, he became the city's first Black sportscaster, newscaster, and radio executive. Cooper's enthusiasm for radio was matched by his commitment to Black youth. A resident of the nearby Morgan Park neighborhood, Cooper actively supported community groups including the South Side Boy's Club and the Morgan Park Youth Association. He went on to own his own radio station.

In 1966, the Chicago Park District acquired 4.3 acres of land in the West Pullman neighborhood with the help of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.  Jack Cooper died January 12, 1970. In 1975, the park district officially designated the site Cooper Park in his name.

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