Countess Clarke Cooper
2017 Welmore Cook Awardee
Countess Clarke Cooper is an award-winning artist, musician, minister and chaplain. A native of Tampa, Fla, this multi-talented lady is also a public servant and businesswoman in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area. For the past 24 years, she has been employed at the United States Department of Education (ED) in Washington, D.C., serving in various capacities to include lead accountant in the Federal Pell Grant program, senior customer representative with the call center, supervisory institutional review specialist in the area of Title IV School Compliance, data analyst and FOIA liaison within Federal Student Aid. Her federal service has been purposeful as she is an advocate of education. In addition to her job duties, she is very pleased to serve as the current president of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Allied (LGBTQA) Employees at ED, an affinity group within the United States Department of Education.
In her ministerial vocation, Cooper was ordained in 2000 by the United Church of Christ (UCC) to serve on a four-way covenant as a team pastor to the historic Faith Temple Church of Washington, D.C. Faith Temple, founded by Dr. James S. Tinney in the 1980s, is one of the first multi-cultural, multi-racial churches to welcome LGBTQ christians within the United States. Further expanding her service as a minister, in 2010 she received a direct commission, under former President Barack Obama, to serve as a military chaplain to the D.C. Air National Guard. In addition, she has served as a choir director/church musician at numerous churches and military settings within the District and beyond.
Chaplain, Major Countess Cooper was educated in Hillsborough County Public Schools in Tampa, Fla and matriculated at Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C. with a double major in business administration and accounting, both degrees awarded in 1990 with the highest honor of summa cum laude. Notably, she won the favor of faculty, staff and peers, alike, as they elected her Miss Shaw University 1990. Queen Countess appeared in April 1990 edition of Ebony Magazine in the article featuring college campus queens. She was also a finalist in the Miss Collegiate African-American pageant, held in 1990 in Los Angeles, Cali. Matriculating further, she received both degrees, the master of business administration in 1992 and the master of divinity in 1997 with honors from Howard University, Washington, D.C.
Countess has received many awards and honors, with some of the most outstanding to include receiving the Henry G. Maynard Preaching Award given by Howard University School of Divinity faculty (1997), winning various talent shows and rendering a solo performance with a standing ovation to then President William J. Clinton and many other heads-of-state and dignitaries at the Annual Legislative Conference Dinner of the Congressional Black Caucus Weekend (1999). In addition, Rev. Cooper has offered many inspiring performances to prominent figures: former President Bill Clinton, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, former Vice President Al Gore, the CBC members, the Prince and Countess of Wexler and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, various military generals and an impressive list of civic and social elite. She has also shared the stage with Melba Moore, CeCe Peniston, Freda Payne, Denise Williams and Congressman Walter Fountroy to name a few. As an inspirational performer, she has shared her creative gifts in churches, schools, nursing homes and prisons as well as the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Theater, Tampa Theater, Raleigh Convention Center and other notable venues.
As an entrepreneur, Rev. Cooper owns and operates an apartment building located in Washington, D.C. Her tenants appreciate her compassionate approach to leadership and authority. Rev. Cooper has one son and lives in Maryland with her partner. Overall, she sees social justice as a major tenet in her work, service and ministry in the world, inspired by the prophetic verse of Amos 5:24 (NET Bible), “Justice must flow like torrents of water, righteous actions like a stream that never dries up.”
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