Harold D. Cooley

2010_CooleyHarold D. Cooley

Harold Dunbar Cooley, a Democrat from Nashville, served in the U. S. House of Representatives for 32 years. One of five children in a lawyer’s household, Harold was born in 1897. His father died when he was nine. At age 18 he began law school at the University of North Carolina, and was licensed as an attorney at age 21. During the First World War, he enlisted in the Navy and had ground training at the Naval Aviation Flying Corps in Massachusetts. He also studied constitutional law at Yale Law School under former President William Howard Taft. In 1919 Cooley returned to Nashville to farm and practice law. He married Madeline Matilda Strickland in 1923, and they had two children. He said he “wanted to live in the largest, whitest house in Nashville,” so he bought it, and it’s still there at the end of the divided main thoroughfare, a reminder to us of his unique impact. In his first election in 1934, Cooley defeated five other candidates in the Fourth Congressional District to begin his first term in the United States Congress. As a farmer, he got on the House Committee on Agriculture. Thus, he was active in supporting President Roosevelt’s “New Deal” program that controlled production and price supports. By 1949, Cooley had seniority. As the first chairman of the U. S. House Committee on Agriculture from N. C. in 104 years, he played key roles in the development of the Farmers Home Administration, the Soil Conservation Service, the Crop Insurance Program, the Tobacco Program, and the Wheat and Cotton Program. He continued as chairman until his retirement in 1967, except for a brief time when the Republicans were in majority. As chairman in 1960 under President Kennedy, he secured the “Food for Freedom” program thus creating a foreign market for North Carolina. His travels in Europe and Asia fed his expanding interest in world agriculture, and led to his involvement as a U. N. consultant. He was widely known for touring his district in a big, black limousine, and for receiving many honors including “Man of the Year” by the N.C. Farm Bureau, the N. C. State Grange, and The Progressive Farmer magazine. He remains the longest serving chairman in the history of the House Agricultural Committee. After 32 years in Congress, Cooley resumed his law practice in Nashville in 1967. For many years he hosted speakers for the Harvest Festival, including Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jr., and future President Harry S. Truman. Harold D. Cooley died in 1974, seven years after retirement.

Inducted into Hall of Fame 2010
Deceased