Former Trustee

Marine Corps University Foundation Logo Ambassador
J. Gary Cooper
Major General
USMCR (Ret)


Ambassador J. Gary Cooper is the Chairman of CNB Bankcorp and the retired Chairman of the Board of Commonwealth National Bank. He has served on the Boards of the United States Steel Corporation, Protective Life, PNC Financial Service Group and Gencorp Inc.

He currently serves on the Boards of Mobile County Industrial Development Authority, Alabama Port Authority, Air University Board of Visitors, Community Foundation of South Alabama, American Friends of Jamaica, Paymaster Jamaica, and United States Marine Corps University Foundation.

In 1994, President Clinton selected J. Gary Cooper, a military, government, and business leader, to serve as the United States Ambassador to Jamaica. Upon Senate confirmation, Mr. Cooper presented his credentials to the Governor General of Jamaica on November 4, 1994. Ambassador Cooper returned to his home in Mobile, Alabama in December 1997.

From 1992 to 1994, Ambassador Cooper was the Senior Vice President of David Volkert & Associates, a regional engineering and architectural firm. Mr. Cooper also served as Vice President of David Volkert & Associates from 1981 to 1989.

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In 1989 President George H. W. Bush appointed, and the U.S. Senate confirmed, Mr. Cooper as the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Manpower, Reserve Affairs, Installations and the Environment. He participated in the planning of Operation Desert Storm. He served throughout the Bush Administration.

In 1978 the Governor of Alabama appointed Mr. Cooper Commissioner of the Alabama State Department of Human Resources. In this Cabinet position, Commissioner Cooper managed a staff of over 4,000 and the largest agency budget in the State of Alabama.

From 1973 until his appointment as Commissioner, Mr. Cooper served in the Alabama State Legislature. He was one of the first African Americans since Reconstruction elected to the legislature from Southern Alabama.

From 1958 to 1970, Mr. Cooper was an active duty Marine Corps officer. During his acclaimed military career, he reached the rank of Major General, and earned the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts and the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm, Silver and Bronze Stars. In Vietnam, he became the first African American officer in Marine history to lead an infantry company into combat and later to command a Marine reserve unit and a Marine detachment aboard a naval ship.

He was promoted to Major General in 1988, and returned to active duty as Director of Personnel, Headquarters, United States Marine Corps.

Since 1970, as a private citizen, Ambassador Cooper has served as Director and Corporate officer of his family’s eighty year-old funeral home. In 1976, joined by other distinguished local citizens, Ambassador Cooper founded Alabama’s first and only
minority-owned and operated National Bank, Commonwealth National Bank, which continues to serve Southern Alabama. His public service has been recognized by the NAACP, B’Nai Brith, the City of Mobile, the Secretary of the Navy, the University of Notre Dame, and the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. In 2000, he was chosen as “Patriot of the Year” by The Mobile Bay Area Veterans Day Commission. In 2001, he was designated a “Living Legend” by University of the District of Columbia and he was honored as Alabama’s “Veteran of the Year” in Birmingham.

He is a member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, 100 Black Men of Mobile, NAACP, Marine Corps Officers Association, The Retired Officers Association, The Marine Corp League, and Montford Point Marine Association.

The Ambassador is a graduate of The University of Notre Dame. He is a 1979 graduate of the program for Senior Executives in Government at Harvard University. In 2003, he attended the Directors’ Education Institute at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. In 1990, Alabama’s Troy University awarded him an Honorary Doctorate of Law.

The Ambassador is married to Beverly Martin Cooper of Richmond, Virginia. He is the father of three children: Patrick, a graduate of Yale Law School; Joli, a graduate of Wharton School of Business; and Gladys Shawn, a former Marine Corps Officer and graduate of the J. L. Kellogg School of Business.