Our Namesake

Named in 1991 for prominent Mississippi Baptists, Owen and Elizabeth Cooper, the Cooper School of Missions and Biblical Studies embodies a rich heritage of biblical study, missions theory and practice, and ministerial leadership. Owen and Elizabeth Cooper had distinguished lives of leadership and service. In January, 2002, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History elected Owen Cooper to the Mississippi Hall of Fame.

Upon his election, the MDAH wrote of him,

Mississippians owe much of their ease of travel to the efforts of Owen Cooper. He was the guiding force behind AHEAD (Advocating Highways for Economic Advancement and Development), the group of business, agricultural, and professional leaders dedicated to building a four-lane highway system throughout the state in the 1980s. Before that Cooper had helped found both the Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company and the BlueCross/BlueShield health program in Mississippi.

He may be best known for another groundbreaking organization he founded in 1948, the farmer-owned chemical cooperative Mississippi Chemical Corporation. In 1957 Cooper started the First Mississippi Corporation, a venture capital group that became the first Mississippi-chartered company listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

He helped initiate the Mississippi Head Start program and was chairman of the Mississippi Council on the United Nations. His progressive views during the Civil Rights era were controversial and may have cost him the chance of being elected governor of Mississippi. Cooper was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1972 and was named Mississippi Baptist Layman of the Century by the Mississippi Baptist Convention (Mississippi History Newsletter Online, 44/1, January 2002).

In 1991 at the establishment of the Cooper School of Missions and Biblical Studies, Dr. Earl Kelly, Executive Director-Treasurer of the Mississippi Baptist Convention, and Dr. Marjorie Rowden Kelly, former missionary and faculty member at William Carey University, gave a tribute to the Coopers. To read this tribute, click here. This text originates from The Carey Vision, 1/1, (November 1991).