A warrior is someone who is experienced in warfare and shows great vigor, courage, and if need be, aggressiveness often to the benefit of others. Onie Cooper will always be known as a warrior for social change in Northern Nevada.
This long-time civil rights and community leader was born February 8, 1925 in Warden, Louisiana, to Minister Ardist Cooper, Sr. and Maggie Cooper. In 1943 he left Louisiana to join the Armed Services. One of his proudest achievements was being an honorable discharged veteran of World War II and the Korean War as a Sergeant, and he served his country as honorably as he served his community.
He came to Reno in the early 1960’s where his voice has been instrumental ever since in shaping equal opportunity for all people in the Reno-Sparks area through his work with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People at both the local and regional levels. He has also served as president of the Reno-Sparks branch of the NAACP and until recent years was Chairperson for the state’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission, and the Northern Nevada Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday Committee. It was this tenacious civic work ethic that enabled Rev. Cooper to see a 22-mile portion of US Highway 395 named after King, culminating in the naming of the Onie Cooper Activist Award in 2010.
After diligently working more than 20 years as a Health Investigator, he retired in the year 2000 from Washoe County Health Department with full appreciation for a job well done. Being retired did not keep Rev. Cooper from continuing to serve, and through his valuable contributions to church and community, Rev. Cooper was elected a member of the Advisory Committee on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights for Nevada in 2010. In 2009, he was given the Citizen of the Year Award by the Reno-Gazette Journal, and in 2006, he received the Virginia Demmler Honor Roll Award from the Democratic Party of Washoe County, which President Jimmy Carter attended. He was deeply rooted in church from the time of his childhood and he continued to attend church services until he was no longer able. Rev. Cooper was an Associate Minister at Second Baptist Church in Reno, Nevada.
Onie Cooper passed away at the age of 86 after over fifty years of tireless service in the battle of equal rights.