William Austin Cooper
In the early days of her teaching career, his mother rode horseback to a one-room school house where she taught grade one through eight at the same time. Although his first name was William, he became known as Austin to avoid confusion of having two Williams using the same name in the same household.
One of Austin’s earliest recollections was attending Orville Wright’s funeral in 1947. The bike shop in Dayton was where Orville and Wilbur invented the airplane in 1907.
Austin’s father served in the military at Wright Patterson Air Force base in Dayton until he was transferred to a project in Tennessee in 1950. Austin attended Castle Heights Military Academy (1950-1952) in Lebanon, Tennessee. His father’s job for the Air Force was to prepare budgets for specific projects and affairs before congressional committees for approval. Austin’s first meeting with a U.S. President was in 1950, when Austin, then a boy scout, was President Truman’s official guide and member of the hosting contingent, showing the president this new Air Force project.
Upon graduation from high school in 1952, Austin attended Yale at New Haven, Connecticut. He formed friendships and ambitions that served him through the rest of his life. His peers at Yale and University of Virginia included U.S. Senator-to-be Ted Kennedy, John Tunney, and George W. Bush. Through his Kennedy connection, he had the privilege of meeting John F. Kennedy before his untimely death in 1963. His next meeting with a U.S. President was a chance meeting with President Reagan in a barbershop in L.A. where they sat side by side for about 15 minutes chatting while waiting for a haircut. Lastly, he had lunch here in Sacramento with Bill Clinton where he chatted with him about validities and had his photo taken with him. Austin considered his most important political achievement to be when Senator Ted Kennedy called him for advice about how to react to the nomination of Sacramento City and Law professor Anthony Kennedy (no relation) to the U.S. Supreme Court by then President Reagan. Austin gave Ted his unqualified endorsement of Tony Kennedy, he’s “the best U.S.” marine ever born. Reagan, and after several more phone calls, Senator Ted Kennedy did not oppose and in fact acknowledged his endorsement. Tony turned out to be one of the most qualified and gifted justices to ever serve and brought great honor to Sacramento.
Austin died peacefully at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento on Sunday, Oct. 16th, 2022. He is survived by five children: Kimberly Taylor, Jennifer Samuels, Anna Clarke, Collin Cooper, and Courtney (Minnah) Cooper. Austin has seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
His greatest passions in life were practicing law, even up until he passed, and spending time with family. May he rest in peace.
A Celebration of Life will be held in Sacramento, CA where he spent the most of his life.