John Sherman Cooper

John Sherman Cooper

John Sherman Cooper was born in Somerset, Kentucky, on 23rd August, 1901. After graduating from Yale College in attended Harvard Law School. He was admitted to bar in 1928 and worked as a lawyer in Somerset, Kentucky.

A member of the Republican Party, Cooper was elected to the House of Representatives in Kentucky in 1928 and served as judge of Pulaski County (1930-38).

During the Second World War Cooper served in the United States Army where he he attained the rank of captain. In 1946 Cooper was elected to the Senate.

Cooper lived in Washington where he associated with a group of journalists, politicians and government officials that became known as the Georgetown Set. This included Frank Wisner, George Kennan, Dean Acheson, Richard Bissell, Desmond FitzGerald, Joseph Alsop, Stewart Alsop, Tracy Barnes, Thomas Braden, Philip Graham, David Bruce, Clark Clifford, Walt Rostow, Eugene Rostow, Chip Bohlen, Cord Meyer, James Angleton, William Averill Harriman, John McCloy, Felix Frankfurter, James Reston, Allen W. Dulles and Paul Nitze.

Most men brought their wives to these gatherings. Members of what was later called the Georgetown Ladies' Social Club included Katharine Graham, Mary Pinchot Meyer, Sally Reston, Polly Wisner, Joan Braden, Lorraine Cooper, Evangeline Bruce, Avis Bohlen, Janet Barnes, Tish Alsop, Cynthia Helms, Marietta FitzGerald, Phyllis Nitze and Annie Bissell.

After losing his seat in 1949 he returned to his legal practice. Later that year he was appointed delegate to the General Assembly of the United Nations and in as adviser to the Council of Ministers of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1950.

In 1952 Cooper was again elected to the Senate. A strong opponent of McCarthyism Copper was one of the first senators to attack the tactics of Joseph McCarthy. After losing his seat he was appointed Ambassador to India (1955-56). Cooper was elected to the Senate for the third time in 1956.

After the death of John F. Kennedy, his deputy, Lyndon B. Johnson, was appointed president. He immediately set up a commission to "ascertain, evaluate and report upon the facts relating to the assassination of the late President John F. Kennedy." The seven man commission was headed by Chief Justice Earl Warren and included John Sherman Cooper, Gerald Ford, Allen W. Dulles, John J. McCloy, Richard B. Russell and Thomas H. Boggs.

The Warren Commission was published in October, 1964. It reached the following conclusions: "(1) The shots which killed President Kennedy and wounded Governor Connally were fired from the sixth floor window at the southeast corner of the Texas School Book Depository. (2) The weight of the evidence indicates that there were three shots fired. (3) Although it is not necessary to any essential findings of the Commission to determine just which shot hit Governor Connally, there is very persuasive evidence from the experts to indicate that the same bullet which pierced the President's throat also caused Governor Connally's wounds.... (4) The shots which killed President Kennedy and wounded Governor Connally were fired by Lee Harvey Oswald. (5) Oswald killed Dallas Police Patrolman J. D. Tippit approximately 45 minutes after the assassination. (6) Within 80 minutes of the assassination and 35 minutes of the Tippit killing Oswald resisted arrest at the theater by attempting to shoot another Dallas police officer. (7) The Commission has found no evidence that either Lee Harvey Oswald or Jack Ruby was part of any conspiracy, domestic or foreign, to assassinate President Kennedy. (8) In its entire investigation the Commission has found no evidence of conspiracy, subversion, or disloyalty to the U.S. Government by any Federal, State, or local official. (9) On the basis of the evidence before the Commission it concludes that, Oswald acted alone."

According to Gerald D. McKnight, the author of Breach of Trust: How the Warren Commission Failed the Nation and Why (2000): "Although Russell had support from Cooper and Boggs, he was the only one who actively dug in his heels against Rankin and the staff's contention that Kennedy and Connally had been hit by the same nonfatal bullet. Because of Russell's chronic Commission absenteeism he never fully comprehended that the final report's no-conspiracy conclusion was inextricably tied to the validity of what would later be referred to as the single-bullet theory."

The journalist, C. David Heymann, has argued: "Of JFK's many friends and admirers none was more anguished by his death than John Sherman Cooper. The Kentucky senator subsequently served on both the Warren Commission and on the committee selected by Jacqueline and Robert Kennedy to select a site and raise funds for the John F. Kennedy Library. Regarding his service on the Warren Commission, Senator Cooper publicly expressed dissatisfaction with the commission's findings, terming the group's 1964 report 'premature and inconclusive.' In no uncertain terms he informed Jack's surviving brothers, Robert and Teddy, that, having personally examined thousands of shreds of documentation, he felt strongly that Lee Harvey Oswald had not acted alone." Heymann claims that when Cooper expressed these thoughts to Jackie Kennedy, she responded: "What difference does it make? Knowing who killed him won't bring Jack back." Cooper replied: "No, it won't... But it's important for this nation that we bring the true murderers to justice."

Cooper was a critic of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. In 1969, he joined with Senator Frank Church to sponsor an amendment prohibiting the use of ground troops in Laos and Thailand. The two men also joined forces in 1970 to limit the power of the president during a war.

After leaving Senate in 1973, Cooper was appointed Ambassador to the German Democratic Republic (1974-76).

John Sherman Cooper died in Washington on 21st February, 1991.

© , September 1997 - April 2014

Primary Sources

(1) I. F. Stone, I. F. Stone's Weekly (15th March, 1954)

When Ralph Flanders of Vermont attacked McCarthy, the Senate was as silent as it was some weeks earlier when Ellender of Louisiana made a lone onslaught and Fulbright of Arkansas cast the sole vote against his appropriation. Only Lehman of New York and John Sherman Cooper (R.) of Kentucky rose to congratulate Flanders. Nobody defended McCarthy, but nobody joined in with those helpful interjections which usually mark a Senate speech. When the Democratic caucus met in closed session, the Stevenson speech was ignored. Lyndon Johnson of Texas, the Democratic floor leader, is frightened of McCarthy's Texas backers.

(2) C. David Heymann, The Georgetown Ladies' Social Club (2003)

The assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas, brought to an abrupt halt one of Georgetown's most fertile periods of social activity. "There were so many parties during the thousand days of Camelot," said Kennedy White House press secretary Pierre Salinger, who lived in Georgetown, "that they all blend into one. Camelot was one big, endless party." Referring to the encroachment of the Vietnam War, Ambassador Charles Whitehouse called Camelot "a beautiful sunset before an endlessly bitter night." Of JFK's many friends and admirers none was more anguished by his death than John Sherman Cooper. The Kentucky senator subsequently served on both the Warren Commission and on the committee selected by Jacqueline and Robert Kennedy to select a site and raise funds for the John F. Kennedy Library. Regarding his service on the Warren Commission, Senator Cooper publicly expressed dissatisfaction with the commission's findings, terming the group's 1964 report "premature and inconclusive." In no uncertain terms he informed Jack's surviving brothers, Robert and Teddy, that, having personally examined thousands of shreds of documentation, he felt strongly that Lee Harvey Oswald had not acted alone. When he expressed these same sentiments to Jackie, she responded: "What difference does it make? Knowing who killed him won't bring Jack back." "No, it won't," responded Cooper. "But it's important for this nation that we bring the true murderers to justice."

(3) Gerald D. McKnight, Breach of Trust: How the Warren Commission Failed the Nation and Why (2005)

In May 1964, about the midway point in the Warren Commission's investigation, Director J. Edgar Hoover appeared before the commissioners to provide them with his special insights into the Kennedy assassination and the benefit of his forty years as head of the nation's most prestigious and revered law enforcement agency. Hoover was probably America's most renowned and best-recognized public figure, and the Commission wanted to trade on his eclat.

Hoover was scheduled to give his testimony when the Commission was still working under Warren and Rankin's initial time frame and expected to finish up its work by the end of June. Ford and Dulles did most of the early questioning. What they wanted from America's iconic hero was his assurance that the assassination had been the act of a lone nut. Hoover was quick to oblige, assuring the commissioners that there was not "a scintilla of evidence showing any foreign conspiracy or domestic conspiracy that culminated in the assassination of President Kennedy." Hoover told the commissioners they could expect to be second-guessed and violently disagreed with, whatever their ultimate findings were. He pointed out that the FBI was already inundated with crank letters and calls from kooks, weirdos, crazies, and self-anointed psychics, all alleging a monstrous conspiracy behind Kennedy's violent death. Whether orchestrated or not, his testimony before the Commission provided the director an opportunity to launch a preemptive strike against future dissenters and critics of the Warren Commission and, by extension, Hoover's FBI, the Commission's investigative arm.

Whatever the merits, if any, of Hoover's profiling of future Commission dissenters and critics, its first test was a hands-down failure. The Commission's first dissenter was Senator Richard Brevard Russell, Jr., one of the most conservative as well as respected and admired members of the U.S. Senate. Russell wielded great power in the upper chamber and had earned the title "dean of the Senate." During 1963-1964, when the Warren Commission was conducting its business, no U.S. legislator was at the White House as frequently as the senior senator from Georgia.

On September 18, 1964, a Friday evening, President Johnson phoned Russell, his old political mentor and longtime friend, to find out what was in the Commission's report scheduled for release within the week. Johnson was surprised that Russell had suddenly bolted from Washington for a weekend retreat to his Winder, Georgia, home. Russell was quick to clear up the mystery as to why he needed to get out of the nation's capital. For the past nine months the Georgia lawmaker had been trying to balance his heavy senatorial duties with his responsibilities as a member of the Warren Commission, a perfect drudgery that Johnson had imposed upon him despite Russell's strenuous objections. No longer a young man and suffering from debilitating emphysema, Russell was simply played out. But it was the Warren Commission's last piece of business that had prompted his sudden Friday decision to escape Washington.

That Friday, September 18, Russell forced a special executive session of the Commission. It was not a placid meeting. In brief, Russell intended to use this session to explain to his Commission colleagues why he could not sign a report stating that the same bullet had struck both President Kennedy and Governor Connally. Russell was convinced that the missile that had struck Connally was a separate bullet. Senator Cooper was in strong agreement with Russell, and Boggs, to a lesser extent, had his own serious reservations about the single-bullet explanation. The Commission's findings were already in page proofs and ready for printing when Russell balked at signing the report. Commissioners Ford, Dulles, and McCloy were satisfied that the one-bullet scenario was the most reasonable explanation because it was essential to the report's single-assassin conclusion. With the Commission divided almost down the middle, Chairman Warren insisted on nothing less than a unanimous report. The stalemate was resolved, superficially at least, when Commissioner McCloy fashioned some compromise language that satisfied both camps.'

The tension-ridden Friday-morning executive session had worn Russell out. He told Johnson that the "damn Commission business whupped me down." Russell was in such haste to get away that he had forgotten to pack his toothbrush, extra shirts, and the medicine he used to ease his respiratory illness. Although Russell had support from Cooper and Boggs, he was the only one who actively dug in his heels against Rankin and the staff's contention that Kennedy and Connally had been hit by the same nonfatal bullet. Because of Russell's chronic Commission absenteeism he never fully comprehended that the final report's no-conspiracy conclusion was inextricably tied to the validity of what would later be referred to as the "single-bullet" theory. But he had read most of the testimony and was convinced that the staff's contention that the same missile had hit Kennedy and Connally was, at best, "credible" but not persuasive. "I don't believe it," he frankly told the president. Johnson's response -whether patronizing or genuine remains guesswork - was "I don't either." In summing up their Friday-night exchange, Russell and Johnson agreed that the question of the Connally bullet did not jeopardize the credibility of the report. Neither questioned the official version that Oswald had shot President Kennedy.