Four Classmates of Destiny

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The Daily Observer today presents our third History & Us column, using a photograph we recently discovered of four outstanding Liberians, who were members of the Class of 1927 of the College of West Africa (CWA).  They were all old Monrovia boys.

The first in the photograph, far left, was  James B. Dennis, most probably the tallest in the class, who rose to become Deputy Secretary of the Treasury in the Tubman administration.  He was later appointed by President Tubman as Liberian Ambassador to the United Arab Republic (Egypt) and to Syria; and later as Ambassador to Spain. We know of two sons of James B. Dennis—Max Beverly Dennis, Consultant to the Minister of Justice, R.L. and former Minister of Youth and Sports under the administrations of Presidents Charles Taylor and Moses Blah.  Max later became Ambassador-at-Large during the Taylor administration. 

Max’s younger brother, James B. Dennis, Jr., also entered the financial sector.  He became the Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia.

Max and JB’s paternal grandfather was Joseph Samuel Dennis, Secretary of War (now Defense), whose father was James Benjamin Dennis.  He was the son of the Dennis patriarch of the Dennis family in Liberia, Henry Wesley Dennis. 

Joseph Samuel Dennis, the Secretary of War, was also grandmaster of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, but died in the grandmaster’s chair in the Masonic Temple, then located at the corner of Broad and Lynch Streets, just next to the Liberia Telecommunications Corporation.

According to Max Dennis, his  paternal grandmother was Ma Williette Jesina Payne, granddaughter of President James Spriggs Payne.  Ma Williette  Payne’s father was Beverly Yates Payne, one of three sons of President James Spriggs Payne.  One was Samuel Payne, father of Mrs. Georgia Payne Cooper, who served for many years as Secretary of the Liberian Senate.

She had several children by Jesse Reed Cooper, son of Jimmy Cooper, the wealthy Liberian rubber planter, landholder and presidential aspirant, who lost to W.V.S. Tubman in the 1943 elections.  The children were Sam Payne Cooper, a lawyer, who became Deputy Secretary of Agriculture during the Tubman administration; Adriana Cooper; and Bismark Cooper, who became a geologist.

Another son of Georgia Payne Cooper was Baccus Matthews, Sr., father of the revolutionary Liberian politician, G. Baccus Matthews, who became Minister of Foreign Affairs immediately following the 1980 coup d’état. Baccus’ mother was Rebecca Green of Sinoe County.

Max Dennis’ mother was Angeline Watta Allison, who hailed from the Kissi ethnic group of Foya, Lofa County.

J.B. Dennis’ mother, Sarah Hanky, was a Kru and German extraction. Her mother was Kru and her father German.

John Lewis Cooper, second on the photograph, was one of Liberia’s first telecommunication engineers. He was a pioneer of the Liberian Telecommunication system, headquartered at Lynch and Broad Streets.

Mr. Cooper was married to Eugenia Simpson Cooper of Clay Ashland.  They were blessed with two sons, John Lewis, Jr., who became an accountant and Deputy Postmaster General under McKinley  A. DeShield, and Julius, who became an agronomist and Deputy Minister of Agriculture and later Minister for Action, Development and Progress.  The third child was a daughter, Ora Cooper Butler, wife of Robert (Bobby) Butler.

John Lewis Cooper was the eldest of three outstanding brothers. The two younger brothers were General Emmet Cooper and Ambassador Roland Cooper.  They had two sisters: Katherine (Kate) Roberts, whose daughter, Izetta, was married to Dr. Nehemia Cooper, founder of the Cooper S.D.A. Clinic; and Mrs. Iola Russ, whose son Louis Russ is a former Agriculture Minister of Liberia. All of the Cooper brothers became rubber planters and made money. 

Roland Cooper’s children were Majorie Cooper Greaves, Eve Cooper and Roland Cooper, Jr.

John Lewis Cooper, Jr. was twice married, first to Toulia Dennis of Careysburg, which union was blessed with Dr. Janice Cooper (now County Representative for Health of the Carter Center); John III, regional manager for Darden Foods (a restaurant chain in the USA); and Ora Eugenia. John, Jr.'s second marriage was to Calista Dennis; and to that union, two daughters were born, including Helene Cooper (author of the bestselling The House at Sugar Beach and White House correspondent of the New York Times); and Marlene Cooper Vasilic of the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C.

Julius’ children include Jeanine Cooper Heffinck of Brussels (with the United Nations), Erica Cooper Hill; Julius, Jr. (deceased); Zubin Cooper; Sarah Ellen Cooper and Hannah Gizelle. 

Emmet married Nancy Richards Cooper, daughter of the famous Matilda (Tilly) Richards, grandmother of former Foreign Minister Olubanke Akerele and C.T.O. King III.  Emmett and Nancy’s three daughters are Yvonne, who married a member of the Ferrari family of Italy, Geraldine and Precious Matilda Cooper.

The third person on the photograph is Richard Abrom Henries, former Speaker of the House of Representatives.  Mr. Henries came from a poor family and started his career as a school teacher.  He was good in Math and immediately started teaching the subject at Liberia College.  While in college he got a job cleaning the General market, at the foot Gurley Street, just below Coleman Hill.

His father was George E. Henries and mother, Eliza Robinson.  The grandmother was Rosina Robertson.  Speaker Henries was named Abrom after his grandfather, Abrom Robinson.

Richard A. Henries started legal work as Clerk of the Magisterial Court of Monrovia. He was also clerk in the office of the Monrovia City Mayor, James Minor, who lived on the block between McDonald and Carey Streets. He also traveled the country teaching and inspecting schools. That is now following his divorce from Angie Brooks, he befriended and later married Dr. A. Doris Banks Henries, an African American Methodist missionary, who later became a Liberian citizen and Deputy Minister of Education.  Doris Banks Henries and her husband wrote many Liberian history books, although she wrote some on her own.

Mr. Henries became Chief Clerk of the Treasury Department.  He told his eldest son George E. Henries, named after his grandfather, that he, Speaker Henries had not thought of going into politics.  But some members of the True Whig Party came and told him they wanted him to run for a seat in the House of Representatives for Monrovia.  “That’s where it started, and I got elected,” he told his son George.

In 1951, when Speaker Benjamin Greene Freeman was nominated as running mate to President Tubman at the TWP convention in Monrovia, the House chose R.A. Henries as their Speaker.  He held that position until the April 12, 1980 coup d’état.

Mr. Henries was on the Liberian delegation to the founding of the United Nations in 1945, and therefore became one of the signatories to the UN Charter in San Francisco, California, USA.

While in San Francisco, he was appointed a member of the Reorganizing Committee of the International Court of Justice.

Mr. Henries was twice married, first to Angie Brooks of Virginia.  By that time, Mr. Henries’ first son was three years old.   In later years Angie Brooks made a name for herself and her country by being elected, on September 16,  1969, President of the United Nations General Assembly, the second woman and the third African to hold that position.   

The union of Mr. Henries and Angie Brooks was blessed with three sons, Richard Abrom, Jr., Wynston J. and Richelieu Henries.

He once served for five years as grand master of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, the nation’s highest fraternal order.

His beloved son George, a true and devoted follower of his father, also became and remains one of Liberia’s outstanding lawyers and former Associate Justice.  And, like his father, George also served for many years and grand master of Masons.  That was 50 years after his father was made grand master.

The last person on the photo was Richard S.S, Bright, who became a wealthy rubber planter and real estate entrepreneur.

Mr. Bright hailed from the famous Bright family that migrated to Liberia from Sierra Leone in 1898.  He and his brothers and sisters were born in Liberia.  His brothers were W. Oliver Davies Bright, who ran unsuccessfully against President Tubman for president; and Robert Bright, who became a wealthy poultry producer.  Their sisters were  Williette Bright Campbell; Mai Bright Robinson, mother of Rosina and Arnold Robinson, Mrs. Marie Davies-Johnson, mother of Mrs. Williette Johnson Jupiter, wife of Dr. Charles Jupiter, a dentist, Dr. Marie Brown, a dentist, married to George Brown of Switzerland; Nancy Knight, wife of Liberian Ambassador to Paris, J. Emery Knight; and Dr. Archie Johnson, the eminent Liberian gynecologist. 

Mr. R.S.S. Bright once served as Secretary to President Edwin Barclay up to his retirement from the presidency.  Mr. Bright later joined the Liberian diplomatic service, and helped former President C.D.B. King open the Liberian  Embassy in Washington, D.C.  Mr. Bright also served at the Liberian Mission to the United Nations.

His first two children were the late Dr. Cyril Bright, former Liberian Minister of Planning and Economic Affairs, and former Minister of Agriculture; and Greeta Bright-Brewer.

Mr. R.S.S. Bright later married Clavenda Sherman Bright, daughter of the eminent Liberia politician and statesman of Grand Cape Mount County, Reginald Sherman.  This union was blessed with three children. The first, Clavenda, became Mrs. P. Clarence Parker.  Clave, as she is affectionately called, is Liberia’s first female pharmacist, a product of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Clave chairs the Board of the Liberia Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Authority (LMHRA) as well as that of Ecobank, Liberia’s largest commercial bank.  The second child of Mr. and Mrs. Bright is Onike  Bright-Togba, wife Liberia’s first plastic  surgeon, Dr. Joseph N. Togba, son of the first Director General of the National Public Health Service of Liberia.  The third child is Richard S.S. Bright, Jr., a Certified Public Accountant. 

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2 COMMENTS

  1. This is a good history on the Cooper Family. My concern is the representation on General Emmett Cooper. Gen. Cooper had three sons and another daughter Alphonso, Jenkins, Rabbit, and Nicole Cooper. Gen. Cooper three sons are decreased. Gen. Cooper have grand children who are descendent from his son’s.

  2. This is good piece of history worth documenting for generations to come. I have a brother who is the grandson of Mr Bright.

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