NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TN Tribune) — On Tuesday, Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville) announced he would not seek reelection after his 32 years in Congress. 

“I cannot thank the people of Nashville enough. You backed me more than almost anyone in Tennessee history, making me the state’s 3rd longest-serving member of Congress. You allowed me to help millions of people while representing our state capital, as well as 30 of our state’s 95 counties,” Cooper said in a statement.  SEE ALSO| GOP House Speaker defends proposed congressional maps, says gerrymandering is not happening

Cooper said he saw the General Assembly’s recent redistricting as “dismembering Nashville.” He made the announcement nine months before the November election in hopes of giving other candidates more time to campaign. Individual contributions made to Cooper’s campaign will be returned.  

“I plan on finishing out my term by maintaining a high level of service to all the 760,000+ people in the 5th congressional district. A member of Congress is only as good as his staff, and I’ve had the very best talent for almost 40 years. They are a joy and a blessing. Many have gone on to great careers inside and outside of government. My 600+ interns over the years are our future leaders,” his statement continued.  

Some of his proudest accomplishments highlighted in his announcement included securing $9.5 billion in federal funds to the Nashville district over the last 20 months, paving the way for immigrants who have relocated to Tennessee, and serving on more House committees than any of his colleagues. 

Nashville Mayor John Cooper released the following statement on social media following the congressman’s announcement:

“This is a loss, both for Nashville and Washington. Jim is a leader with deep expertise and a great heart.”

The Tennessee Democratic Party also released a statement on Cooper’s departure from Congress:

Jim Cooper and the Cooper family were raised with public service at the forefront of their lives. For 32 years as a member of Congress, Jim Cooper has been a champion for the citizens of Tennessee. He stood up for and represented Tennesseeans who lived in his district as well as those who had been cast aside by representatives in other districts. 

Congressman Cooper’s legacy of public service has helped to create a booming Nashville, a stronger Tennessee, and a better America. With his departure from Congress, we commit to fighting to ensure that the 5th Congressional District does not fall into the hands of someone who fails to live up to that legacy. 

We thank Congressman Cooper for his service to our state, our nation, and to our party.

Cooper plans to take on a new job sometime next year and spend more time with family and friends. 

You can read his full statement below:

“Today I am announcing that I will not run for re-election to Congress. After 32 years in office, I will be leaving Congress next year.

“I cannot thank the people of Nashville enough. You backed me more than almost anyone in Tennessee history, making me the state’s 3rd longest-serving member of Congress. You allowed me to help millions of people while representing our state capital, as well as 30 of our state’s 95 counties.

“Despite my strength at the polls, I could not stop the General Assembly from dismembering Nashville. No one tried harder to keep our city whole. I explored every possible way, including lawsuits, to stop the gerrymandering and to win one of the three new congressional districts that now divide Nashville. There’s no way, at least for me in this election cycle, but there may be a path for other worthy candidates.

“I am announcing my decision promptly so that others have more time to campaign. I will return the individual contributions that I have received for this race so that donors can redirect them as they choose.

“I plan on finishing out my term by maintaining a high level of service to all the 760,000+ people in the 5th congressional district. A member of Congress is only as good as his staff, and I’ve had the very best talent for almost 40 years. They are a joy and a blessing. Many have gone on to great careers inside and outside of government. My 600+ interns over the years are our future leaders.

“I’ve given out my personal cell phone number (615-714-1719) to everyone, unlike almost anyone else in Congress, so that I am accessible, even during Covid. And you have called! It’s been a privilege to hear your thoughts, help cut red tape, and to assist in emergencies.

“Another way I’ve been helping is channeling $9.5 billion in federal funds to the Nashville district in just the last 20 months, far more federal money than ever.

 “Anyone who would like a detailed breakdown of this recent federal aid should contact Cara Ince in my office. And the $9.5 billion does not count the billions of dollars of federal aid that our General Assembly has rejected, or the additional funds from the Infrastructure Act (that no Tennessee GOP federal representative supported).

“Most of my work in the House — the real work of Congress gets no publicity — has been on the Intelligence, Armed Services, Budget and Oversight Committees. I serve on more committees than anyone else while maintaining a nationally-recognized level of civility and bipartisanship, even in these divisive times.

“No one is perfect, and I know I’ve made mistakes. I appreciate those who have educated me and helped me improve. But I am a proud Democrat who refuses to demagogue, and who chooses to be on the right side of history in order to give all our kids a better future. My votes certainly fueled our Republican legislature’s revenge.

“I love the intimacy of solving others’ problems. I am prejudiced, but Tennesseans are the finest people in the world. We include recent arrivals, particularly immigrants, who often have hard lives. I hate the thought that no congressional office may be willing to help them after I leave. One of my remarkable staffers, John Wood, has been a one-man Statue of Liberty for decades.

“I don’t know what the future holds but I am ready to get another job next year and make up for lost time with family and friends. I could not be more excited. Having started as the youngest congressman in America, even after my record tenure I am still only 67 years old.

“For everything there is a season, a time and place under the sun. My time in Congress is ending, but I can’t wait to start the next adventure.”

This article was first published by WKRN

Statements to the Tennessee Tribune on Congressman Jim Cooper

“Congressman Jim Cooper has been Nashville’s guardian angel for more than thirty years.  He never lost touch with his Tennessee constituents.   And, I am grateful for that.  Jim is a true aristocrat and statesman with invaluable knowledge and leadership – there will not be another one in Tennessee.”   

Senator Brenda Gilmore, District #19

“Jim Cooper has served in the United States Congress for 32 years. I know it was not an easy decision, clearly, he is putting the interest of the district ahead of himself.  This decision will open the door for new leadership and with the proposed redistricting, Tennessee Democratic candidates will meet the formidable challenge with energy and tenacity.  I am confident.”

Bill Freeman 

“It is so difficult for me to accept Jim Cooper’s retirement from Congress. He started  his journey for our community and Nashville about the same time that the Tennessee Tribune was established 30 years ago. He was there when the Tribune burned the mortgage 13 years later and front and center when we opened the Tennessee Tribune news store at  BNA in 2020. I thank him for honoring me and the Tennessee Tribune in the Congressional Record, Dec 3, 2021. Honoring Rosetta Miller-Perry And The Tennessee Tribune; Congressional Record Vol. 167, No. 208 (Extensions of Remarks – December 02, 2021)

He and his late wife Mary, have always been an integral part of my life whether in Washington or Nashville for so many years, and this I am so grateful.  I wish him the best for his future and we will miss him in Nashville and certainly in our community.”

Rosetta Miller-Perry, Tribune Publisher/CEO

“Congressman Cooper retiring marks the end of an amazing legacy. I will always remember that he answered his cell phone (which he gave to everyone) and the voting day lunches at the home of Steve & Jo Ann North and lunch at Lena Brown Prince as we visited various businesses in my district when I was council person. His 32 years as a public servant and tireless works for a better Tennessee plays a role in my life and will not be forgotten.  Representative Cooper enjoy your grandchildren!”

Vivian M. Wilhoite, Assessor of Property, Davidson County

“Congressman Cooper has been a great friend of American Baptist College.  He has supported this institution with grant applications and keeping us updated on matters that impact the sustainability of the College.  We are proud of our association with him and wish him well in future endeavors.”

Forrest E. Harris, Sr., President, American Baptist College

“Congressman Cooper has been a stabilizing force in the 5th district for more than 30 years.  He has been accessible, fair and compassionate in his service. While he leaves office because of gerrymandering, his legacy is most honorable.”

Dr. Phyllis Qualls, President, Les Gemmes, Nashville

“Congressman Cooper has served the 5th district with honor and humility.  I has used his office to help and serve his constituents in every possible way.   The gerrymandering of the district will leave many constituents void of service that may no longer be so readily available to us.  He leaves this office with honor, knowing a job well done.”

Pastor Howard E. Jones, Jr., Pastor Fairfield M. B. Church

“Congressman Jim Cooper has served the State of Tennessee with the confidence and the energy of a great visionary – He will be missed.” 

Pastor Ron Parham, Edmondson Chapel Church

“I really appreciate Jim Cooper’s service to our state and our nation. Every opportunity we had to meet with him and his team to address issues affecting our community, it has always been a thoughtful, meaningful experience. We need to always be prepared for change and his departure from the U.S House of Representatives is an opportunity for others to continue his work and represent our interest, the interest of not only Tennesseans but of Americans from all backgrounds.” 

Yuri Cunza, President/CEO, Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

“I am truly sadden Jim Cooper is retiring as a result of the state legislature’s continued voter suppression efforts. They are reduced to subversive tactics rather than substantial and equal opportunities for ALL Tennesseans.”  

Peter C. Woolfolk

“I had the privilege to work for Jim in his district office for over 2 years. It was an honor to serve and see Jim in action. He trusted to me to lead his Project Register bipartisan campaign, which recruited more than 200 Tennessee companies to Register their employees to vote. It was the most successful voter registration campaign in Congress. Jim fought for voting rights and healthcare to make Tennesseans healthier and give us more access to the ballot. He’s a brilliant humble public servant and his presence in Congress will be missed.”

Charlane Oliver, Equity Alliance

We in the 5th District owe a tremendous debt of thanks to Congressman Cooper.  His steady character has represented our District with dignity and vision possessed by few in public office.  I am blessed with his friendship and our city and State have been blessed by his leadership.  

Karen Johnson, Nashville Davidson County Register of Deeds