ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — April 18, 2017 — James L. Cooper, founding partner of the law firm formed in Atlantic City in 1957 and known, since 2007, as Cooper Levenson, Attorneys at Law, passed away on Saturday April 15. He was 87.
Cooper was a graduate of Atlantic City High School, Rutgers University and Rutgers Law School. He was instrumental in the legalization of gambling in Atlantic City. He also was a tireless advocate for equal rights and justice, for the elderly and less fortunate, and will be remembered for his social consciousness and generosity.
Cooper was the Founder and a Chairman of the local chapter of the National Conference for Community and Justice, Chairman Emeritus of the Atlantic Cape Community College Foundation, an adjunct professor at Temple University School of Law in Philadelphia, and a Visiting Distinguished Scholar at Stockton University. He served as President and Chairman of the Board of Directors, New Jersey Defense Association, and was a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers.
In 1966, Cooper took a leave of absence from his own firm to work as a volunteer with President John F. Kennedy’s Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in Mississippi.
“He stood up for the underprivileged and those discriminated against,” said Lloyd D. Levenson, Chief Executive Officer of the firm, “He volunteered his legal abilities for a considerable period of time in Mississippi during the volatile times of the sixties. That’s the kind of person he was.”
Cooper also made a difference closer to home. He contributed to the redevelopment of Historic Gardner’s Basin, including the building of the Ocean Life Center and the Atlantic City Aquarium. He was an advocate for education, and under his leadership as Chairman for the Atlantic Cape Community College Foundation, the college’s annual Restaurant Gala grew from a small community event to almost 1,000 people attending, according to Jean McAlister, executive director of the Atlantic Cape Community College Foundation.
Cooper has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors over the years, including the Trial Attorneys of New Jersey award for Distinguished Service in the Cause of Justice, the “Rosa Parks” Award by the African-American Male Conference of Atlantic City and the “Legion of Honor” by the Chapel of Four Chaplains, an honor given to those who exhibit “outstanding, sacrificial volunteer service to one’s community and fellow human beings without regard for faith or race.” For his work in civil rights, Cooper was honored in 2007 by Stockton’s Council of Black Faculty and Staff with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
At the age of 82, inspired by his daughter’s experiences as a school teacher, Cooper formed the Let Us Eat Please organization, a free meal program that is designed to fill the gap left when school is not in session, leaving students who get free or reduced-rate breakfast and lunch without those meals. The firm and his family plan to continue his work with Let Us Eat, Please, Inc.