Photo: Bobby Cooper (pictured at middle) was recognized for his 43 years as the voice of Gadsden State athletics on February 17 at Beck Field House. Pictured with Cooper are GSCC Athletic Director Blake Lewis and Gadsden State President Dr. Kathy Murphy. (Courtesy of Gadsden State)
By Jackie Brehm Edmondson, Gadsden State
It is obvious from the moment one meets Bobby Cooper that he is a true Gadsden State Cardinals fan.
“Gadsden State is my school, and I love it,” he said. “I feel the way about Gadsden State like Alabama and Auburn graduates feel about their schools. I want Gadsden State to be the best at everything. If we had a tiddlywinks team, I’d want us to win.”
Since graduating from Emma Sansom High School in 1968, Cooper has had a connection to Gadsden State as a student, an athlete and, for the last 43 years, a public announcer for the athletics department.
On February 17, Cooper was honored in between GSCC basketball games for his many years of service.
“I had total replacement surgery on my left shoulder in November and I have plans to get the right one replaced as well,” he said. “Rehab takes a lot of my time, so I’m not able to announce as much as I used to. I guess it’s time to pass the microphone to someone else.”
Gadsden State has been an important part of Cooper’s life since being a member of the school’s basketball team in 1969. He was only on the team for a quarter before enlisting in the U.S. Navy. He was assigned to the USS Bordelon out of Charleston, S.C., and spent time in the Middle East, Cuba and South America.
“I had the best job in the military,” he said. “I was the cook. That’s where I learned to cook.”
After a year-and-a-half at sea, Cooper returned to Gadsden State, where he played baseball and served as a student assistant coach for two seasons. He also worked for five years as a sports columnist for The Gadsden Times.
In 1978, Cooper left Gadsden State as a student to take a job at the steel plant, as he needed a full-time job to help support his wife Yvonne and their two children, Bradlie and Patrick.
But Cooper still found a way to be involved in Gadsden State athletics.
“I started filling in as the announcer for Ronnie Johnson, who was a Church of Christ pastor and couldn’t call games on Wednesdays because of church services,” he said. “Before long, I took over the announcing, and Ronnie filled in for me when I needed him to.”
In addition to the basketball games, Cooper started calling Gadsden State baseball games around 1980 and moved onto announcing softball games after the baseball team disbanded in 2011. Last April, the college announced that both baseball and softball will be reinstated this fall.
“I’m excited that Gadsden State is bringing back baseball and softball,” he said. “I really love baseball. That’s my sport. For eight years, I coached Little League baseball. And, for 20 years, I umpired college baseball with my best friend, Ralph Muskett.”
The grandfather of 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, Cooper had to temporarily give up announcing in 2011 while he battled stage 4 throat cancer. As soon as he was cancer-free, Cooper returned to the microphone.
“I’m proof that stage 4 is beatable,” he said. “I had a great doctor and a lot of prayers being sent to the ‘Big Man’ with my name attached to them.”
Cooper soon was once making more memories with the school’s basketball team.
“It’s been a wonderful experience watching the players grow athletically and academically. A lot of great players have come-and-gone at Gadsden State, and one of the best – if not the best – is on the current Cardinal roster in Kintavious Dozier.”
A sophomore guard, Dozier is currently top scorer in Division I men’s basketball for the National Junior College Athletic Association.
“He is special player,” said Cooper. “He’s probably the best all-around player we’ve ever had. He’s got a lot of talent.”
Cooper said he roots for all of the Gadsden State student-athletes on the court and in the classroom.
“I like to watch them play but I also like to watch them succeed,” he said. “I want them to get their education and go on to do great things.”
Cooper has also enjoyed working with the coaches at Gadsden State, particularly longtime men’s basketball coaches Stan Cook, Ginn and Hal Davidson and longtime baseball coach Bill Lockridge.
“I can’t thank all of the coaches that I’ve worked with enough,” he said. “My time at Gadsden State has been great. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”