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Besse Cooper, the World’s Oldest Person, Dies

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Marc Serota, Getty Images

Before women gained the right to vote in 1920, Besse Cooper joined the suffrage movement. Then 24, the Georgia school teacher registered women to vote and spoke to others about the importance of having a voice in politics.

Imagine all she saw in her life with the world changing like it is. She lived 116 years, only one of eight people recognized by the Guinness World Records to have lived that long.

When asked for her secret to a long life, Cooper told the Guinness people earlier this year: ‘I mind my own business. And I don’t eat junk food’. I guess when a person that lives this long starts talking about longevity, we better listen to them.

Besse Cooper was born in Sullivan County, Tennessee, on August 26, 1896. She began to go to school at age 5. She eventually went to East Tennessee Normal School, now East Tennessee State University, in Johnson City to study education.

When she graduated, she got a job earning $35 a month. When she heard from a friend she could make more in Georgia, she got a job in Monroe making twice as much.

She married Luther Cooper in 1924, and he died in 1963. She never remarried.

Sidney Cooper, 77, said his mother always said her best years were when she was in her 80s. Besse Cooper is survived by four children, 11 grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren.

The oldest person to have ever lived, according to Guinness World Records, was Jeanne Louise Calment. She died in southern France in 1997 at the age of 122.

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