When it comes to buying a new car, generations of Oklahomans have turned to the name Cooper. What began as a single Oldsmobile dealership in Yukon has grown into one of the most trusted brands in the state automotive industry.
It was 1954 when Claude Cooper began searching for a buyer for his Oldsmobile franchise. His health was failing, so his son Jackie decided to leave college and run his father’s business. At age 21, he purchased his dad’s company, making him the youngest dealer in the United States to hold an Oldsmobile franchise.
The company grew, eventually moving to a new state-of-the-art complex covering 15 acres on Route 66 east of Yukon. In 1967, “Cooperville” opened with much fanfare – one of the celebrated guests at the grand opening was Oklahoma’s own Miss America, Jane Jayroe.
“I have some special memories of that place, and Jackie’s generosity and support of the Miss America system,” says Jayroe. “Nationally, Oldsmobile supplied every state winner with the use of a car. But some dealerships were more enthusiastic about it than others. I was so blessed to work with Jackie; as Miss Oklahoma, Jackie would ‘loan’ me a brand-new car every 3,000 miles. The only car I had ever owned was a used Falcon with a lot of miles and really bad shape. The passenger door wouldn’t even open, so everyone had to climb in from another door. It was thrilling to be driving a new Oldsmobile!”
Jayroe said she enjoyed the full spectrum of models – a convertible, a luxury sedan, a sports car – all emblazoned with a decal on the side identifying “Miss Oklahoma” and the Miss America pageant.
The original Cooperville dealership grew to include other businesses and dealerships, eventually expanding into Tulsa with Jackie Cooper Imports.
A family tragedy in 1990 prompted the Cooper family to enter the non-profit world, as Barbara Cooper founded the Oklahoma AIDS Care Fund, along with her husband Jackie and a small group of volunteers. Its annual Red Tie Night fundraiser will be held March 9 at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.
Today, the Cooper family legacy continues serving Oklahoma, with son Joe at the helm. The original Cooperville may be long gone, but the memories remain.
“Jackie was so generous,” Jayroe says. “As Miss America, I felt like a queen driving those cars. He was one of those people who was bigger than life. I adored his wife, Barbara, and thought they were the greatest. Jackie Cooper blessed a lot of people. I was one.”