Liberia: Henry Reed Cooper, Former Chief Justice of Liberia, Dies at 82

The late Cllr. Henry Reed Cooper, the 17th Chief Justice of Liberia

Just ten more days, and Henry Reed Cooper, the 17th Chief Justice of Liberia, would have seen his 83rd birthday. But having been ill for a protracted period, the revered former jurist breathed his last at 1pm on Thursday, August 24.

Born in Monrovia, Liberia September 3, 1940, to Mr. & Mrs. Jesse Reed Cooper, Henry grew up on Front Street. Jesse, who was the original director of the Liberia Telecommunications Corporation (Telecom, as it was known) was the son of Jimmy Francis Cooper (Henry’s paternal grandfather), Liberia’s first local rubber planter besides Firestone. His farm was on Kakata highway. During the administration of then President C.D.B. King, Jimmy Cooper wore several hats — Secretary of State, of War, and of the Interior, when Firestone came to Liberia. 

Henry’s maternal grandfather was Nugent Gibson, of Snapper Hill, Broad Street, opposite Trinity Episcopal Parish (Trinity Cathedral). 

Henry started his elementary education at the St. Patrick’s Elementary School (located where Cathedral High School is now). He then matriculated to the College of West Africa (CWA), from where he obtained his high school diploma, class of 1960. 

He attended the University of Liberia, where he earned his first degree and, subsequently, took a Bachelor of Laws degree at the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law. He was admitted to the Liberian Bar Association. Henry Reed Cooper later obtained the Master of Laws from University of Pennsylvania Law School. 

Before entering legal practice, Cooper worked at the Department of State (now Ministry of Foreign Affairs, RL), in the office of the late Secretary of State, J. Rudolph Grimes. 

As a prominent lawyer, he was a partner at the Bright, Cooper & Simpson Law Office, which later became Cooper & Togbah Law Office. 

At the height of his legal career, Henry Reed Cooper served as the 24th Chief Justice of the Republic of Liberia during the administration of the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL), from 2003 to 2006.  

Cooper retired from the Supreme Court in 2006, succeeded by His Honor Johnnie N. Lewis (deceased). At the Cooper & Togbah Law Office, he continued to practice law until his death. 

Cllr. Henry Reed Cooper was a respected jurist and a distinguished public servant. He received a national honor from Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf bestowed upon him the honor of Knight Grand Band, Order of the Star of Africa. 

He was a dedicated advocate for the rule of law and the protection of human rights. He will be remembered for his contributions to Liberia's legal system and his commitment to justice.

In addition to his legal career, Cooper was also active in a number of professional and civic organizations. He was past president of several organizations including the Liberia Bar Association, the Rotary Club of Monrovia, and the Liberia Boy Scouts. He was also a founding board member of the S.O.S. Children’s Village Liberia.  

Cooper was also a talented musician and generous supporter of the arts. He started playing piano and viola at the age of 3 and, by the age of 14, he was playing in a band at a local night club. He later turned his talents to the service of the church, where served as choir director of a Methodist Church for over 10 years. 

Cooper was a highly respected figure in Liberian society. He was known for his intellect, his integrity, and his commitment to justice. He was a role model for many young Liberians, and he inspired them to pursue careers in law and public service. Many regard him as “a true patriot who dedicated his life to the service of Liberia.” He will be remembered as one of the most distinguished jurists in the country’s history. 

The late Former Chief Justice Henry Reed Cooper is survived by his wife Annie Nadu Cooper; four sons, Ervin V., Henry Reed III, Jesse Reed, and Charles Dorme; several grandchildren, siblings and other family members in Liberia and abroad.