Updated 11:57 a.m. Eastern Time
Ann Nixon Cooper, the 107-year-old Atlanta woman whose name President Obama invoked when he gave his historic election speech last year, died Monday afternoon around 3:30 p.m.
Then President-elect Obama called Cooper an example of "the heartbreak and the hope," noting that she'd lived long enough to remember when African-Americans weren't able to vote and to finally be able to vote for and elect the country's first black president.
Atlanta City Councilman Ivory Young, whose district includes Cooper's Hunter Hills home, said that he met her when running for office in 2001 and he found her stories about Atlanta history mesmerizing.
"I knocked on her door, and she answered the door and invited me in and I was at her house the entire afternoon," Young said. "Her words if you spent any time with her could have a profound impact on you. She had you glued. She could really bring a story to life."
Young said that Cooper invited him when he was campaigning during this last election, too. He said from the first time he met her, she made clear what she expected from her elected representatives and what she expected city hall to do for Atlanta. "I really feel like I lost a friend," he said.
Former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young recounted Cooper's legendary vibrancy, noting that she had taught senior citizens aerobics until she was 100. He told how he danced with her at her 104th birthday party, chuckling at the memory of how she outperformed him. "When I was tired, she stayed out on the floor and did the electric slide," the former ambassador to the United Nations said. "I never saw her angry with anybody, and she lived a loving life."
Cooper had not been up to par since she fell and broke her hip about a year ago, Andrew Young said. He had hoped that she would make her 108th birthday on Jan. 9, but he thought that Cooper was content to pass on.
"We won't miss her because we'll never forget her," he said.
UPDATE: The White House released a statement from the president Tuesday morning on Cooper's passing. Read it below.
"Michelle and I wish to express our deepest condolences on the passing of Mrs. Ann Nixon Cooper. From her beginnings in Shelbyville and Nashville, Tennessee to her many years as a pillar of the Atlanta community, Ann lived a life of service. Whether it was helping to found the Girls Club for African American Youth, serving on the board of directors for the Gate City Nursery, working as a tutor at Ebenezer Baptist Church or registering voters, Ann had a broad and lasting impact on her community. I also understand that as a wife, mother and grandmother, Ann was a source of strength for her entire family, and that she always put them first.
Over the course of her extraordinary 107 years, Ann saw both the brightest lights of our nation's history and some of its darkest hours as well. It is especially meaningful for me that she lived to cast a vote on Election Day 2008, and it was a deep honor for me to mark her life in the speech I delivered that night. It was a life that captured the spirit of community and change and progress that is at the heart of the American experience; a life that inspired – and will continue to inspire – me in the years to come. During this time of sadness, Michelle and I offer our deepest condolences to all who loved Ann Nixon Cooper. But even as we mourn her loss, we will also be rejoicing in all that she meant for her family, her community, and so many Americans."