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On this date, in 1926, Chuck Cooper was born. He was a Black basketball player and later a city official.
He was born in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, the son of Daniel and Emma Cooper. He played basketball, graduated from Westinghouse High School, and attended West Virginia State before entering the Navy during World War II. After his service, the 6’5” Cooper attended Duquesne University and was among the first Black All-Americans. On April 25, 1950, Cooper broke the National Basketball Association (NBA) color barrier when the Boston Celtics drafted him.
According to his coach Red Auerbach, Cooper “had to go through hell” as the first Black in the sport. He played for six seasons, and with fellow rookie and roommate Bob Cousy, they revitalized a mediocre team. He then played a season for the Milwaukee/St. Louis Hawks and the Fort Wayne Pistons before finishing his career outside the NBA with the Harlem Magicians.
Cooper later earned a Master's in Social Work degree from the University of Minnesota, served on Pittsburgh’s school board, and became the city’s first Black department head as director of parks and recreation. Chuck Cooper also supervised Pittsburgh’s National Bank’s affirmative action program before he died in 1984.