Madison Alexander Cooper, Jr. was born June 3, 1894, the third and last child of M. A. and Martha Dillon Roane Cooper. Even in his infancy, Madison was viewed as the heir apparent of his father’s growing position in the Waco business community.
Throughout his grade school years, Madis (his childhood name) was a quick learner who made good marks. When he was 11, his mother commissioned architect Glenn Allen to design the three-story brick mansion at 1801 Austin.
In High School, Madison excelled in Latin classes. Matriculating to the University of Texas (only 27 years old itself), Cooper would later characterize his college days saying, “…outside of my courses, my activity was principally and preoccupiedly SOCIAL.”
From his attic office, Madison Cooper, tapped out the first pages of a novel, the seed of which he titled “The Catch of Sironia,” a short story published in 1939. From there, a life-size drama of sweeping narrative proportions evolved into 53 chapters.
For promotion of his book, “Sironia, Texas,” this photograph was made in 1952. Cooper was 58. It was also the year he would receive the McMurray Bookshop Award for best first novel by a Texan. He channeled the award money into a fund for needy writers.
Cooper allowed few promotional photos to be made, this one in his cluttered office. A Sironia genealogy chart and town map is on the wall in front of him. He kept files in metal filing cabinets, bureau drawers and cardboard boxes. The office is today as he left it.

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.

On the day of his death in 1956, Madison Cooper went for one of his thrice-weekly runs on the red cinder track at Waco Municipal Stadium. He was found slumped in his Packard shortly after 6:00 that evening, the engine still running.
Cooper’s personal estate, estimated in 1956 to be worth over three million dollars, was transferred to the Cooper Foundation. Madison’s will contained his hope that “many thousands of Texans will benefit through the legacy hereinafter authorized.”
An impressive family monument selected by Madison Cooper’s mother dominates the large lot in Waco’s Oakwood Cemetery where the author was buried in 1956. Small headstones mark the graves of Mr. and Mrs. Cooper, Madison, and his sister, Christine, who died in childhood.

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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