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Preserving Land and a Legacy in Alabama

AL - The Harvard-educated lawyer deeply cared for his Alabama hometown – one of steel and historic social change. He played a major role in the integration of Birmingham’s steel mills and was lauded for his commitment to civil rights with honors during his lifetime and after his passing. But during and after fighting the good fight, his heart and mind often found solace in the lovely mountains and rivers of North Alabama near Mentone.
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Preserving Land and a Legacy in Alabama

Mentone Area Land Donated

The family of the late Jerome “Buddy” Cooper has preserved forever 23 acres in the Mentone area – including about ¼ mile of riverfront on The Little River West Fork – by donating the land to The Land Trust of Huntsville & North Alabama.

In May Mr. Cooper’s children, Ellen Cooper Erdreich and Carol Cooper, and his grandchildren, Jeremy C. Erdreich, Anna B. Erdreich and Caroline Sokol, deeded his Mentone property to The Land Trust.

A Place in History

Buddy Cooper had a long distinguished career as a labor and civil rights lawyer. He was co-counsel in Reynolds V. Sims (1964), one of a group of decisions that led to the Supreme Court’s historic “one man one vote” decision in Baker v. Carr. In 1963, he helped facilitate the Steelworkers’ secret wiring – at the request of President Kennedy - of over $200,000 to post bond for the release of 900 protesters and children from Birmingham jails following the Children’s Civil Rights March in May, 1963.

“My father had a keen sense of the injustices in America,” said Cooper’s daughter Ellen Erdreich. “But, he’d say, ‘There is a great scale in the sky. It will come out okay. We just have to fight for it.’”

Love for the Land

Another of Buddy Cooper’s passions was the environment. “We rarely took vacations when I was growing up. My father loved the mountains and the cool weather. His idea of a vacation was going to Mentone in North Alabama. A great evening for him was sleeping on the porch and listening to the sounds of the woods.”

AL SignCooper’s son-in-law, former Congressman Ben Erdreich, said, “Buddy always wanted his property to remain wild. He felt that protecting woodlands was very much a civic responsibility. He served as president of Ruffner Mountain Nature Center and was a Lifetime Director-at-large for the Birmingham Audubon Society. He also helped set aside the Sipsey Wilderness. His Mentone property was his wilderness.”

“Buddy Cooper accomplished what most of us strive to do – to make a difference,” said Land Trust Executive Director Cynthia Parker. “The Land Trust is grateful that we are able to help make his dream for this lovely property become a reality. Mentone is growing rapidly, as is Huntsville and all of North Alabama. We hope that the preservation of the Cooper property may encourage other land owners to protect their property from development via donation or Conservation Easements.”

“Beautiful areas like Mentone are turning into suburbs,” Mrs. Erdreich stated. “People are building mansions on the river. Our family wanted to carry out his wishes of keeping this property as natural as possible. He would be thrilled that The Land Trust is going to take care of it.”

The Land Trust of Huntsville & North Alabama

The Land Trust, Alabama’s first land trust, is a member supported non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of natural lands for public enjoyment and prosperity in ten counties of North Alabama. Since 1987, The Land Trust has protected and maintains over 5,100 acres and has created 33+ miles of public trails on three land preserves – each larger than Central Park and all within Huntsville city limits.

Photos by Andy Prewett, Land Trust of Huntsville & North Alabama

Top of page: Mike Dale, Lands Committee Chairman, and Cynthia Parker, Executive Director, view the Cooper property with former Congressman Ben Erdreich, his daughter Anna B. Erdreich, and granddaughter Lois Sofia Sigman

Middle of page: Mr. Cooper commissioned this sign, which roughly translated means ‘The Cooper’s Country Retreat’ in Latin

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