ETSU claims world's oldest person as grad

World's oldest person is a graduate of what is now ETSU
Besse Cooper was born in Sullivan County, graduated from East Tennessee Normal School (now ETSU) when it was a teacher’s college, and is retired today at the Park Place Nursing Facility in Monroe, Ga.

On Monday she became the world’s oldest living person at 114 years and five months, following the death of 114-year-old Eunice G. Sanford, of Jacksonville, Texas. The Gerontology Research Group keeps track of those over 110 years of age.

Besse was born on Aug. 26, 1896, at Deer Lick in Sullivan County near Boone Dam. She was the third of eight children.

Her son, Sidney Cooper, said that her dad built a house in Boones Creek and she was able to take the train from Gray Station to Johnson City. “It was tuition free for the two-year teaching degree back then,” Sidney said. “All she had to pay for were the books.”

After receiving her teaching degree from ETNS she taught in Tennessee at Tiger Valley and Etowah, before she sought work in Georgia during World War I. She taught in Tennessee with Vera and Tom Algood, according to Sid. “When they moved to Georgia they wrote her and said the pay was better there.”

She married her husband, Luther, in 1924 and had her first child in 1933. She quit teaching, then and had three more children, including Sid, now 75. Sid’s son told his mother she was now the world’s oldest person on Monday night.

“That’s just great,” she said.

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