Circumstances of Death
On October 25, 1963, Special Agents Joe Brooks Cooper, Ralph Holt, Richard Dickinson, S. B. Whitlow and Alabama Beverage Control Agent Harold Hartranft executed a Federal search warrant at Club 92, a dance hall about five miles southwest of Brent, AL. The dance hall was operated by Tod Tidwell. While the search was ongoing, Tidwell, who had feigned cooperation, suddenly drew a .38 caliber revolver from his pocket. He fired twice, instantly killing Agent Cooper and wounding Agent Holt, who quickly took up a defensive position. There were several more shots exchanged and Agent Holt was also killed. Tidwell is believed to have been wounded during this exchange of gunfire.
As the sound of gunfire filled the club, Agent Whitlow arrived and engaged Tidwell in a gunfight, probably wounding him again several times. Tidwell attempted to retreat to the basement, however, Agent Hartranft, who was already in the basement, fired several shots driving him back upstairs. Tidwell, who at this point was seriously wounded, took refuge behind the bar and fell unconscious. Agents Cooper and Holt were pronounced dead at the scene. Tidwell was taken to Perry County Hospital in Marion and died the following day.
Agent Cooper joined the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Division (ATTD) on July 7, 1958, and was assigned to the Tuscaloosa, AL, office. In 1961, Agent Cooper (along with other ATTD agents) received a commendation from Attorney General Robert Kennedy for his outstanding law enforcement assistance during civil unrest in Montgomery, AL. Previously, he had proudly served two tours in the U.S. Marine Corps between 1945 and 1951. Agent Cooper graduated from Union University in Jackson, TN.
Agent Cooper was born in Jackson, TN. He was survived by his wife, Brunelle and their son, Joe B. Cooper, Jr.