Annie Cooper: House staffer 50+ years

wrote in July about legislative staffers who had been here the longest, (Dot Barber and Shirley Phillips have worked here continuously since 1965, Joan Leatherman since 1967,  Anne Cole 1963, 1967, 1980-date, Penny Williams 1959, 1987-date).  Dot and Shirley are in their 43 year of consecutive service.

The record for continuous legislative service is held by Annie Cooper at 50 years and 7 days.  “Miss Annie” as she was known, started work with the Corporation Commission (now known as the Utilities Commission) in 1919 at the age of 17, and was assigned to the House Principal Clerk’s staff for the 1919 and 1921 sessions (her daughter Dora Cooper Beale told me last week that it was common at the time for state agencies to assign staff to the General Assembly). The 1919 session convened January 8, 1919.  Miss Annie converted to the General Assembly payroll on the House Clerk’s staff in 1923, according to an April 11, 1965 News & Observer article about her. Working her way up to Journal Clerk, she became House Principal Clerk on Match 8, 1943, when then Principal Clerk Shearon Harris was drafted.  Miss Annie served as House Principal Clerk until January 15, 1969, when she was succeeded by JoAnn Smith (the story is that Miss Annie was defeated for renomination by one vote in the House Democratic caucus held just prior to convening of the 1969 session).

I met Miss Annie just once. In 1987, Bill Typing Supervisor Tommie Hobgood retired, and Miss Annie (under whom Tommie had worked) came to the retirement party in the Legislative Office Building and I got a chance to talk to her.  Annie Cooper died in 1993.

The News & Observer reported in 1965 that during her first week at work, she attended committee hearings on the Women’s Suffrage Amendment, which became the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution March 16, 1919. 18 states ratified the amendment between January 8 and 16, 1919. North Carolina did not ratify until 1971.


3 Responses to Annie Cooper: House staffer 50+ years

  1. Shirley Phillips says:

    “Miss Annie” Cooper was one wonderful woman – she “shepherded” me through my beginning days with the Legislature. She had a reputation for being “strict” and expected us to follow her directions without fail…however, she was one of the most delightful women I have ever known…a keen sense of humor, always had a good story to tell. Miss Annie’s tenure covered a time when the conventional dress for women was beginning to change….She DID NOT like pant suits…in fact, she felt the clerks should wear dresses, hose and high heels! Eventually she succumed to the new styles of the day – but she would let you know if she thought you were dressed inappropriately. We always listened to Miss Annie!!!!!!!!!

  2. gercohen says:

    Dot Barber sends along this comment:
    “Miss Annie visited the NC House back when Liston was Speaker. I remember she was recognized and asked to sit on the House Floor and the Wake Delegation spoke about her, etc. It might have been recorded in the Journal. I can’t remember exactly which session, probably 1985 or 1987. I think her daughter brought her down for the special occasion and it seems like she was using a wheetchair getting around.”

  3. gercohen says:

    Senator A.B. Swindell (who was on the Senate staff in 1967), sends along this comment:
    “Miss Annie was a great lady. I can see her now. When I would come to Raleigh from Hyde with my father to the legislature in the old chamber I can still see her in my mind. She was really special. Like many others of us time catches all of us, and sooner or later we either get replaced or we leave on our own. “

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