John Alfred Cooper Jr. (1938–2013)

John Cooper Jr. led Cooper Communities, the real estate development company founded by his father, John A. Cooper Sr., through a period of outstanding growth. The firm was a pioneer and a recognized leader in the field of recreational and retirement living.

John Alfred Cooper Jr. was born on September 13, 1938, in Memphis, Tennessee, to John Alfred Cooper Sr. and Mildred Borum Cooper, spending much of his youth in West Memphis (Crittenden County). He had three sisters. He graduated from Christian Brothers High School in Memphis and spent a post-graduate year at the Marion Military Institute in Marion, Alabama.

He attended the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). There, he majored in business and was a member of Kappa Sigma fraternity. Serving in the Air Force National Guard, he was called for active duty in 1968 during what became known as the Pueblo Crisis in which a U.S. Navy vessel, the USS Pueblo, was attacked and captured by North Korea.

John Cooper Jr. married Pat McInnis in 1966, and they had two sons and a daughter. He joined the firm founded by his father, which was originally called the Cherokee Village Development Company and was later known as Cooper Communities, Inc. In 1968, John Cooper Jr. was elected company president, becoming chairman of the board in 2002; he was chairman until his death in 2013.

John A. Cooper Sr. had created the company’s first master-planned community in 1954 at Cherokee Village (Fulton and Sharp counties) near the town of Hardy (Sharp County) in northeastern Arkansas, going on to create Bella Vista (Benton County) in 1965. Under the leadership of John Cooper Jr., the company continued to focus on active adult communities that would not only appeal to retirees but also to successive generations.

During the tenure of John Cooper Jr., Cooper Communities established Hot Springs Village (Garland and Saline counties) in 1970; Tellico Village, Tennessee, in 1986; Savanah Lakes Village, South Carolina, in 1989; Stonebridge Village, Missouri, in 1993; Glade Springs Village, West Virginia, in 2001; Creekmoor, Missouri, in 2004; and Sienna Lake (Pulaski County) in 2005.

Through Cooper Communities, John Cooper Jr. donated locations for five schools and more than fifty churches. In addition to planned retirement communities, the company also expanded its development of vacation ownership resorts and commercial properties. In 1972, the company’s annual revenues reached $100 million. In 1991, Cooper Communities received nationwide publicity when the popular National Public Radio program All Things Considered visited Hot Springs Village for a feature on retirement communities, spending several days on site interviewing residents.

In 1997, Cooper Communities restructured itself into a holding company with several wholly owned subsidiaries: Cooper Land Development for developing and improving property; Cooper Homes for new residential construction; Cooper Realty Investments for commercial development; and CooperShare Resorts, focusing on the development of timeshares. Later, Cooper Building Materials was added to the portfolio, with CooperShare Resorts changing its name to Cooper Escapes.

John Cooper Jr.’s son, John A. Cooper III, replaced him as president in 2002, marking the third generation of Cooper leadership for the family-owned business. At that time, the company’s worth was estimated at $150 million in diversified holdings. In 2002, Cooper Communities moved its corporate headquarters from Bella Vista to Rogers (Benton County).

John Cooper Jr. served on a number of notable corporate boards, including Arkansas Power and Light, Arkla Gas Company, Entergy, J. B. Hunt Transport Services, Union Planters Bank, Walmart, and Worthen Bank Holding Company. He was also a founding member of the Arkansas Business Council and the Mildred B. Cooper Memorial Chapel Foundation.

As an avid hunter, he was a charter member of the Arkansas Nature Conservancy board of trustees, serving in that role from 1983 through 1986. Along with philanthropy benefiting the Nature Conservancy, he was instrumental in providing property for numerous community parks and recreation projects.

John Cooper Jr. died in Bella Vista on January 6, 2013. Funeral services were held in Bella Vista, with former U.S. senator from Arkansas Kaneaster Hodges officiating.

For additional information:
Cooper Communities, Inc. (accessed February 28, 2023).

“Cooper Communities Keeps It All in the Family.” Talk Business & Politics, August 5, 2002. (accessed February 28, 2023).

King, Cyd. “Cooper Communities Chairman Dies at 74.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, January 8, 2013. (accessed February 28, 2023).

Obituary of John Alfred Cooper Jr. Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, January 9, 2013. (accessed February 28, 2023).

Nancy Hendricks
Garland County Historical Society


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