James Cooper: December 24, 1934 - August 19, 2021

James Louis Cooper Sr., a professor emeritus of history at DePauw University and a widely recognized expert on the study and preservation of Indiana’s historic bridges, died on August 19, 2021.

The historic bridge community is forever indebted to him for his successful efforts to inspire preservation of historic bridges in Indiana, and to document those that were not preserved.

Read the full obituary here:

Comments  (4)

James Cooper: December 24, 1934 - August 19, 2021
Posted October 3, 2021, by Mairi Cooper (mairicooper [at] gmail [dot] com)

As I was entering junior high school in the late 70's, my father, Jim Cooper, was also beginning to explore a new avenue, the historic bridges of Indiana. From the very beginning, I was involved in "bridging" which involved a day dedicated to traveling around the Hoosier State in my dad's truck trying to locate, photograph and write up historic bridges. We began with metal trusses. I quickly learned to distinguish a Pratt from a Warren Truss and knew to find my way quickly under the bridge to "get to know truly know it", as dad would say. We would contemplate the people who had built the bridge, lived by the bridge or swam under the bridge. At the time, I loved these days because I got my dad all to myself. Now, I love these memories because they remind me that the people (from engineers to farmers) and their stories were inextricably linked to the bridges.

I now live in Pittsburgh where I enjoy an abundance of historic bridges. For me, all of these bridges are linked not only to my father but to all of the people who love them. My father's "partners in crime" in saving and working on Hoosier bridges (frustrating many a county commissioner) were critically important to him and provided a lifeline as he fought the devastating effects of MDS. Maybe one day someone will look at a bridge and one of the stories will be about dad.

(Picture is dad "bridging" on his birthday, Dec. 24, 2017 with his granddaughters)

James Cooper: December 24, 1934 - August 19, 2021
Posted September 10, 2021, by Jason Smith (flensburg [dot] bridgehunter [dot] av [at] googlemail [dot] com)

Just as tragic as the loss of Dr. Cooper was also the loss of J.R. Manning, a key contributor for for over 15 years and who passed away the same day. I've written a joint euology in their honor, which you can see here:

Beginning September 12th and lasting for the rest of the year, a tribute series honoring them will be posted in the Bridgehunter's Chronicles. Check back and have a look at what the two gentlement achieved during their lifetime.....

James Cooper: December 24, 1934 - August 19, 2021
Posted August 24, 2021, by Tony Dillon (spansaver [at] hotmail [dot] com)

For nearly 30 years Jim was a colleague and a good friend. I had met him once before I moved to Florida in 1984, but grew to know him after my return home in 1993. I credit him for helping me to understand the fragile plight of Indiana's metal truss bridges and for shifting my focus towards preserving them. I will always considered him my mentor... something that he chuckled at when I told him one time. You see he knew that I had become fascinated with bridges in 1978 at the age of 12, and thus retorted "well maybe you should be mine". But upon my return home I would have a family to raise and for many years didn't have as much time to devote as I would have liked. It was always a pleasure to watch him go to work saving a bridge here and there and joining in whenever I could. I helped him with some research of county records on a few occasions, something that he was a true master of. I was also there when he received his "Sagamore of the Wabash" Award... an honor so well deserved. I say that because I have no doubt in my mind that many historic metal and concrete spans in Indiana wouldn't exist today without the tireless efforts of Jim Cooper. Indiana Landmarks Foundation would start the ball rolling in the late 1970's by wanting to document the remaining bridges in the state, but it was Jim who ran with that and made it a personal mission. I had lunch with him last year just a couple weeks before the Covid outbreak. I could tell how weary he was becoming after battling Leukemia for several years. We continued to converse over the next year mainly through email. He was trying to finish up his county records for all of those years and would consult with me on numerous spans. It was such an honor to me that he would enlist my help to "bring things current". I have many fond (if now a little bittersweet) memories of our camaraderie towards a passion we both shared. My deepest condolences go out to his wife Sheila and his son and daughter. He will truly be missed.

James Cooper: December 24, 1934 - August 19, 2021
Posted August 24, 2021, by Jeff Wieland (jjwieland [at] gmail [dot] com)

In an email thread, I once recommended "Artistry and Ingenuity in Artificial Stone: Indiana's Concrete Bridges, 1900-1942" to him, not knowing that he'd written it. I said that I hadn't read it, and he chided me for recommending a book without having read it. We both laughed once I'd figured it out!