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Cooper-Sheppard-Cox family papers

Call Number: RH MS 576


The Cooper-Sheppard-Cox Family Papers are those of an African American family whose members resided in Topeka, Kansas from the late 1800s to the 1970s. The papers document the family line of W. D. (William Damascus) and Mary M. (Overton) Brinkley Cooper, and include papers of Sheppard and Cox family members who married descendants of W. D. and Mary Cooper.


  • Creation: 1878 - 2004

Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions.

Audio tapes at RH Cassette Tape 68 have been digitized and the tapes themselves are now stored in the KU Annex off-site storage area. Contact Spencer Research Library reference staff at 785-864-4334 or, 9-5 M-F CST for assistance in accessing these recordings.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

History of Cooper-Sheppard-Cox Family

Persons whose papers are included in this collection are W. D. (William Damascus) Cooper and his daughters (Willa Abe, Emma Ellene, and Elizabeth Brinkley-Cooper), Cooper's two sisters (Alice and Georgia), Henry Edward Sheppard (husband of Cooper's daughter Elizabeth), and Josiah Clark Cox (husband of Elizabeth's daughter Henrietta). The collection also includes papers of Josiah Cox's sister, Olive (Cox) Fisher, and papers of the children of Josiah and Henrietta (Sheppard) Cox: Thomas Cooper Cox, William Henry Cox, and Elene Beth Cox.

W. D. Cooper, 1861-1945 William Damascus Cooper was born in Shelbyville, Tennessee on 4 October 1861 to Damascus and Ellen Cooper. He had two sisters: Alice and Georgia M. In 1884, W. D. moved to Topeka, Kansas, where he married Mary M. (Overton) Brinkley on July 2, 1884. At the time of her marriage to W. D. Cooper, Mary Brinkley had a daughter, Elizabeth, and a son, Overton. Daughters born to W. D. and Mary Cooper were Emma Ellene (in 1899) and Willa Abe (in 1894). W. D. was employed by the Santa Fe Railroad and was a member of St. John's Ame Church and the Af & Am Mount Moriah Lodge, No. 5. Mary Cooper died in 1900. W. D. died at Topeka in 1945.

Alice (Cooper) Washington, 1864-1950 Alice Cooper, a sister of W. D. Cooper, was born in 1864. She married James Washington. They moved to Warrenton, Virginia. Her husband served in the military and died in service. In 1948, Alice moved to Topeka, Kansas. She died at Topeka on 12 February 1950 and is buried with her husband in the Arlington National Cemetery, Washington, Dc.

Georgia M. (Cooper) King, ?-1942 Georgia M. Cooper, a sister of W. D. Cooper, married George F. King, with whom she had a son, Lillard. In the early years of their marriage, they lived in Chicago, Illinois. Georgia died in 1942.

Emma Ellene Cooper, 1889-1972 Emma Ellene Cooper, a daughter of W.D. and Mary Cooper, was born on 30 January 1889, in Topeka, Kansas. Emma attended Topeka public schools, the University of Chicago, Washburn University (Topeka), and Emporia State University (Emporia, Kansas) from which she received a Bs degree in Education in 1939. Emma taught at Monroe Elementary School in Topeka from 1910 to 1941, was employed at the Kansas Vocational School from 1943 to 1949, and was employed at Topeka State Hospital from 1951 to 1956. She was a member of St. John Ame Church and a member of Rebecca Chapter No. 8 Order of the Eastern Star for fifty-eight years, serving as Matron for four separate terms. She was also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, and of the Topeka Teacher's Association and Kansas State Teacher's Association. Emma died in 1972 at St. Louis Missouri.

Willa Abe Cooper, 1894-1917 Willa Abe Cooper, a daughter of W. D. and Mary Cooper, was born in 1894 in Topeka, Kansas. She was a graduate of the Topeka High School and the State Manual Training school at Pittsburg, Kansas, where she earned a teaching diploma in 1914. Willa taught in the Topeka Public School System, while continuing to take correspondence courses at the State Manual Training School. Willa died in 1917 at Topeka.

Elizabeth (Cooper) Sheppard, 1878-1950 Elizabeth Coooper, daughter of W. D. and Mary Cooper, was born in 1878 to Mary (Overton) Brinkley. She had a brother, Overton Brinkley. Following her mother's second marriage, to W. D. Cooper, Elizabeth was reared in Topeka. She married Henry Edward Sheppard on 8 June 1916 in Los Angeles, California, where their daughter, Henrietta, was born in 1919. They later moved to Topeka, and on 17 April 1922 H. E. Sheppard bought the Apex Theater, the first Topeka movie theatre owned and operated by African Americans. Elizabeth's husband died in 1925, and Elizabeth sold the Apex Theatre in 1927. Elizabeth died in Topeka on 2 January 1950.

H. E. Sheppard, 1861-1925 Henry Edward Sheppard was born in Illinois on 8 January 1861. He later lived in Prescott, Arizona and Richmond, California. In Arizona, he was in the mining business and, from 1909-1913, was also part owner of The Manhattan Club. In California, he was a partner in Wagner and Sheppard (pool, billiard, and club house enterprise). On 8 June 1916, he married Elizabeth Cooper in Los Angeles, California. Following the birth of their daughter in 1919, they moved to Topeka, Kansas, where they purchased the Apex Theatre in 1922. H.E. Sheppard died in 1925 at Topeka.

Henrietta (Sheppard) Cox, 1919-2004 Henrietta Sheppard Cox was born in California on 11 March 1919 to Henry Edward and Elizabeth (Cooper) Sheppard. In her early years, her parents moved to Topeka, Kansas, where she attended school. On 23 March 1939, she married Josiah Clark Cox, with whom she had three children: Thomas Cooper Cox, William Henry Cox, and Elene Beth Cox. Henrietta attended Washburn University, the University of Colorado, and the University of Kansas, from which she received a Ba degree in 1942 and a Ma degree in 1945. She later earned a Ph. D. in Sociology from Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri. She was employed as a Professor of Sociology at Washington University and at the University of Missouri. After retiring from teaching, Henrietta was employed at the St. Louis Public Library and was a member of the Board of Directors of the Stella Maris Child Center in St. Louis. She was also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Sigma Xi scientific research society, Jack and Jill of America, and the Informal Dames. Henrietta died in 2004.

Josiah Clark Cox, 1914-1995 Josiah Clark was born in Ross, Arkansas on 5 January 1914 to Thomas H. and Fannie Jean Cox; he had a sister, Olive. Josiah received a Ba degree in Zoology from the University of Kansas on 15 October 1945 and a master's degree in Entomology from the University on 20 November 1946. In 1939, he married Henrietta Sheppard, with whom he had two sons and a daughter. Clark and Henrietta lived in Colorado for a time, where Clark worked for the Union Pacific Railroad as a Dining Car Waiter from 1939-1941. In 1946, Clark he was employed as an Instructor of Biology at Lincoln University (in Lincoln University, Pennsylvania) and he pursued doctoral study at the University of Pennsylvania. The family returned to Topeka in 1950 and moved to St. Louis in the following year, where Clark taught at Sumner High School. He died on 24 October 1995.

Olive (Cox) Fisher, d. ca. 1970 Olive (Cox) Fisher, sister of Josiah Cox, was a resident of Little Rock, Arkansas. Also known as "Bloss" and "Blossie,"Olive married Ed "Jake" Fisher, with whom she had a son "Bud" and a daughter, Flay Katheryn.

Thomas Cooper Cox, 1939-2012 Thomas Cooper Cox was born in Los Angeles, California on 8 August 1939 to Josiah Clark and Henrietta (Sheppard) Cox. Thomas attended the Friends Boarding School in Denver, Colorado, where he graduated from high school in 1957. In the late 1960s, Thomas married Gerry Weaver, daughter of George D. and Dorothy Weaver of Kansas City, Missouri. He earned an Ab degree from the University of Kansas in 1970 and master's and doctoral degrees in American history from Princeton University in 1974 and 1980. While completing his doctoral degree, Thomas was an Instructor of History and American Studies at Middlebury College (Middlebury, Vermont) and in 1980 was promoted to Assistant Professor. He and his wife moved to California in 1983, where he was appointed a professor at the University of Southern California. Among his publications is the book Blacks in Topeka Kansas, 1865-1945. He died in January 2012.

William Henry Cox, 1944-1949 William was born in Denver, Colorado in May 1944; he died at Lincoln University, Pennsylvania in 1949.

E. Beth Cox, 1946-1998 E. Beth Cox was born October 1946 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Josiah Clark and Henrietta (Sheppard) Cox. Her family lived in Topeka, Kansas following the 1949 death of her brother William, and in 1951 moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where Beth attended school. She graduated from Sumner High School, St. Louis in 1964 and in 1969 received a Bs degree in Journalism from the University of Kansas, where she was a member of Delta Sigma Theta. In August 1970, Beth moved to Chicago, Illinois where she was employed as a Field Representative for the Illinois Fair Employment Practice Commission and then as a teacher in the Chicago Public Schools and at Malcolm X University. She married Arthur Williams in 1971. They moved to Topeka in 1972, where Beth was employed at Washburn University and later graduated from law school at the University of Kansas. Following divorce in 1976, Beth married James E. Coleman in 1980 and lived in Kansas City, Missouri. She died on 17 January 1998 in Kansas City.


24.6 Linear Feet (33 boxes + 8 oversize boxes, 1 oversize folder, 4 audio cassettes)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

The Cooper-Sheppard-Cox Family Papers are arranged in thirteen series by family member: the papers of W. D. Cooper, those of his sisters Alice (Cooper) Washington and Georgia (Cooper) King; of his daughters Emma Ellene Cooper and Willa Abe Cooper; of his daughter Elizabeth (Cooper) Sheppard and her husband Henry Edward Sheppard; of their daughter Henrietta (Sheppard) Cox, her husband Josiah Clark Cox, his sister Olive (Cox) Fisher, and the children of Henrietta and Josiah Clark Cox: Thomas C. Cox, William Cox, and E. Beth Cox. The family papers date from the 1870s to 2004. Within the papers of each family member, subarrangement typically follows Letters, Educational Records, Professional Records, Organizational Records, and Personal Records. Folder arrangement within these sub-series is alphabetical, and folder content is chronological unless noted otherwise. Letters received from other Cooper-Sheppard-Cox family members are located within the papers of the recipient. Most letters are accompanied by envelopes, which appear immediately behind the letter. A later addition to the collection, located at RH MS 1312, includes unattributed materials as well as small numbers of items concerning Emma Cooper, Willa Cooper, Henrietta (Sheppard) Cox, Beth Box, and Josiah Cox. Photographs for the collection are located at RH MS-P 576, RH MS-P 576(f), and RH MS-P 1312. Oversize materials, which include items such as newspaper clippings and certificates/diplomas, are located at RH MS Q101, RH MS R94, and RH MS R95. Four audio cassettes are located at RH Cassette Tape 68. Books within the Cooper-Sheppard-Cox family papers, some of which are inscribed, have been cataloged separately.

Physical Location

RH MS 576

Physical Location

RH MS Q101

Physical Location


Physical Location


Physical Location

RH MS-P 576

Physical Location

RH MS-P 576(f)

Physical Location

RH MS 1312

Physical Location

RH MS-P 1312

Physical Location

RH Cassette Tape 68

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, Henrietta (Sheppard) Cox.

Related Materials

Cox, Henrietta (Sheppard). "A Study of the Relation Between Color and Social Status in the Negro Race." Thesis (M.A.), Universiyt of Kansas. Department of Sociology, 1945. Located at Thesis 1945 Cox, Annex 2.

Cox, Josiah Clark. "A Taxonomic Study of the Pleidae of the Western Hemisphere." Thesis (M.A.), University of Kansas. Department of Entomology, 1946. Located at Thesis 1946 Cox, Annex 2 and Thesis 1946 C839, Anschutz Library.

Cox, Thomas Cooper. Blacks in Topeka, Kansas, 1865-1915: A Social History. Baton Rouge: Louisiana Sate University Press, 1982. Located at Spencer Research Library at C6829 and F689.T6C69 1982 Watson Library.

Separated Materials

Several books in the Cooper-Sheppard-Cox Family Papers have been separately cataloged and classified within holdings of the University of Kansas Libraries. Catalog records for these titles note their identity as a part of the Cooper-Sheppard-Cox Family Papers.

Guide to the Cooper-Sheppard-Cox Family Collection
Cooper-Sheppard-Cox family papers
Finding aid prepared by mbw, 2005; revised by skt, 2010; revised by ea, 2013; revised by eh, 2017.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in<language encodinganalog="language">English.</language>
Support for the processing of this Collection was provided by the Dana and Sue Anderson African American Collecting Program Endowment Fund.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
Cooper-Sheppard-Cox family papers, Kansas Collection, RH MS 576, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States