Madison Cooper dressed regularly in his old clothes – not the local population’s idea of how a rich man should appear in public – which gave him no concern as he strolled the town in a well-worn flannel shirt, baggy pants, and a crumpled hat.
In 1943, Madison A. Cooper, Jr. – at that time, a 50-year-oId Waco businessman – finalized a grand plan he’d been considering for years. It was a plan that would honor his parents and be a catalyst for progress forever in his hometown of Waco, Texas.
As he sat in his 3rd story office on 1801 Austin Avenue, Cooper put the last stroke to the written instrument establishing the Madison Alexander Cooper and Martha Roane Cooper Foundation. The younger Cooper wanted to firmly establish his personal vision of the foundation’s expressed purpose – “to make Waco a better or more desirable place in which to live” – while he was alive and in charge.
Consequently, in September 1943, he endowed the Foundation with $25,000 and made sure the rest of his $3 million estate would go to those same coffers upon his death. And it did in 1956 when he was struck by a heart attack on September 28 after his regular afternoon jog at Municipal Stadium track.
Around town, most often on foot, Cooper usually wore baggy khaki pants, an old plaid flannel shirt, and, if it were cool, an equally ancient sweater and shoes that had been repaired so many times they were past help. Odd attire for a rich man, people thought.
When he was on business, Cooper carried a battered leather briefcase containing records on rents he needed to collect, business he had to conduct that day and, almost always, a list of books he intended to check out of the library on the way home. The home on Austin Avenue remains the headquarters of the Cooper Foundation where we are pleased to continue his legacy of hospitality and generous service to the Waco community.
We are grateful for the work of Marion Travis in her detailed preparation of Madison Cooper’s biography, from which much of our historical information is taken. The biography was a joint project of the Cooper Foundation, Historic Waco Foundation, and the Descendants of Lucille Cooper Lacy, to commemorate the M.A. Cooper House Restoration.
Marion Travis, MADISON COOPER, Copyright 1971 (c) Word Incorporated, Waco, Texas; Copyright (c) renewal 2000, Marion Travis.
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