Joel Brandon Cooper

by | Dec 20, 2019 | Obituaries

Chevy Chase, Md.—Joel Brandon Cooper, age 88, died on November 3, 2019.

He was born on November 13, 1930 in the Norfolk Protestant Hospital (predecessor of Sentara Norfolk General) to Dudley and Mary Cooper.

Joel attended Taylor Elementary School, Blair Junior High School, and Maury High School in Norfolk. He then matriculated at Washington and Lee University where he earned recognition in a national leadership fraternity, Phi Delta Phi, and was the editor of the school humor magazine. He did his postgraduate work at the University of Virginia for his law degree and at New York University, where he was awarded a Master’s Degree in taxation. He worked in New York City as an Internal Revenue Agent and in the tax division of a large Manhattan law firm before returning to Virginia.

In Norfolk, he opened his own law office. Although he specialized in franchise tax law, his first major case was before the Federal Communications Commission. A group headed by Joel’s father, Dudley Cooper, had been awarded Norfolk’s second television channel by the FCC Hearing Officer, but had been overruled through in the intersession of Senator Joe B. McCarthy of Wisconsin. Joel took over a legal battle to win part of the ownership of WAVY, Channel 10.

Joel was joined in his law practice by his brother, Charles Cooper, and the firm grew into Cooper, Kalfus and Nachman. During this period, Joel was active with the Democratic Party “Young Turks” who unseated the Byrd Machine representatives in the House of Delegates and the State Senate with progressives such as Tom Moss, Stanley Sacks, Henry Howell, and Stanley Walker. He managed the successful Norfolk Mayoral campaign of Irvine B. Hill.

His interest in television led him to join with Gene Loving in founding WTVZ, Channel 33, expanding to 16 television stations and licenses. Joel then co-founded a music company, Whisper Concerts, which presented nationally known rock and roll bands in concert at theaters and auditoriums, including a theater his family owned, now the Roper Theater. Joel was part of a group that brought the Virginia Squires ABA basketball team, with stars such as Julius (“Dr. J.”) Irving and George Irvin to large audiences in Scope and other Hampton Roads basketball arenas. Finally, he became the publisher of Metro Magazine, the area arts magazine.

After all of this activity, he concentrated his energies on traveling.

He is survived by his former wife, Elaine P. Cooper of Virginia Beach, and his adult children, Wendy Cooper of Virginia Beach (daughter, Sarah), John M. Cooper of Norfolk (wife, Monica and children, Matthew and twin daughters, Camille and Leah), and Catherine “Kate” Augus of Berkeley, California (husband, Barry and children, Lily and Max). He is also survived by his brother, Charles N. Cooper, of Norfolk and Joel’s fiance and loving companion of many years, Shelby Willcox of Naples, Florida.

Funeral arrangements were handled by Joseph Gower’s Sons, LLC.