1916 – 2002
George C. Cooper was a member of the “Golden Thirteen,” the first thirteen African American officers commissioned by the United States Navy. Throughout his career, he faced considerable prejudice because of his race, yet maintained an unshakable commitment to treating everyone the way he wanted to be treated himself. Paul
Stillwell’s book The Golden Thirteen chronicles the episodes of racism
that these pioneering black officers faced, such as sailors crossing the street rather than offering the appropriate salute to an officer. During his time in the Navy, and later working for the city of Dayton as the first black department director, he served as a valued mentor for other Black Americans. Cooper believed in the responsibility to help others and was able to use his interaction with others as an
opportunity to lead them to judge him not by the color of his skin but as a human being.