U. Florida Alum's Grandmother Honored In Obama Speech

This story was written by Katie Sanders, Independent Florida Alligator


The 106-year-old woman immortalized in Barack Obama's victory speech Tuesday night is the grandmother of a University of Florida alum.

About six hours after Obamas midnight address, the alum Ernest Hooper, 44,woke his three children Wednesday and played the speech for them on a computer.

What his two teenage sons and 7-year-old daughter heard was the countrys next president spend about two minutes describing how their greatgrandmother, Ann Nixon Cooper who was born when neither blacks nor women could vote watched her country overcome economic hardship, homeland attacks and civilrights disputes.

To see the gleam in their eye when they heard President Obama say their great-grandmothers name, you know, it was an awesome moment for me, Hooper said. I could see that they were inspired.

Hooper, a St. Petersburg Times columnist, graduated from UF in 1986 with a public relations degree and also worked for the Alligator.

He called his grandmother something of a celebrity in Atlanta. When she cast her vote for Obama about two weeks ago, local media were there, and CNN did a story about how excited she was to get the chance to vote for Obama.

Obama called her home after the CNN story aired, but he left a voicemail because she was out with friends, Hooper said. Hooper said the Obama campaign called Cooper on Tuesday and told her to watch the speech because she would be mentioned.

Never in his wildest dreams did he expect Obama to build his speechs conclusion around his grandmother, Hooper said. I got a little tearyeyed, certainly, he said. She has been the matriarch of her family for such a long time. She means so much to all of us.

Cooper gave birth to four children, one of whom is alive, and has 14 living grandchildren. Hooper said he has lost count of the great-grandchildren.

Hooper wrote in a Wednesday column that television crews from India, Britain and Japan planned to visit his grandmother since the speech.

Now that his family has been propelled to international fame, Hooper said he would follow his grandmothers example and stay humble about the attention. Hooper said he thinks his grandmother will be invited to Obamas inauguration in January and imagines there will be some discussion among her 14 grandchildren about who will take her to the ceremony.

Hooper said he doesnt plan to fight to be the one who takes her to the White House.

Im fine just being able to call her my grandmother, he said.
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