Louis Cooper Jr. surrounded by his family.

After a groundbreaking career focused on service to others and community connections, Louis P. Cooper, Jr. has retired from the Port of Tacoma. 

Cooper left the Port at the end of August after 18 years, retiring from his role as Senior Director for Security and Social Responsibility. 

He joined the Port in 2005 as the first African American to serve as Director of Maintenance, before becoming the first African American appointed Chief Operating Officer. 

“That was huge and represented change for the organization,” Cooper said.

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Cooper’s deep work in the community often led people to consider him the face of the Port. 

He serves on the board of United Way of Pierce County and the Boys and Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound, and as a member of the Community’s Police Advisory Committee, which is focused on police transparency and accountability in Tacoma.

“The BIPOC community, particularly the African American community, I think appreciates what I've tried to do,” Cooper said. “I always try to carry myself in a proud and respectful way despite the challenges I have faced, and I think people appreciate that.” 

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Cooper extended the Port’s reach to community organizations like The Black Collective, Asia Pacific Cultural Center, Boys and Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound, and Tacoma Urban League. That work helped lay the groundwork for education and workforce development programs, like the recent Maritime 253 partnership with Tacoma Public Schools. Cooper said the early conversations with superintendent Josh Garcia were a starting point for the project.  

“We've been able to do some things, good things with some organizations that we never touched before in the history of the Port,” Cooper said.

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Over the years, Cooper’s management portfolio at the Port of Tacoma has included maintenance, port operations, labor relations, security, and social responsibility. Cooper said he values the relationships he’s built with staff members, particularly with those in organized labor.  

Most recently, a key focus has been the committee working on diversity, equity, and inclusion. “This is sort of my last mark on the Port,” Cooper said of his work on the DEI committee. “We’ve had some tough conversations and it’s only the beginning, they will and should get tougher if the Port intends to move forward.” 

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Cooper grew up on the west side of Chicago and played football for the University of Nebraska before transferring to Doane University, where he is in the Athletic Hall of Fame.  

Cooper earned a Bachelor of Science from Doane University and a Master of Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Cooper is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Executive Management for Corrections Officials, the University of Washington Executive Management Program for Public Policy and Management, and the State of Washington Career Executive Program, and The Labor Relations Institute at Cornell University. 

Before joining the Port, Cooper held leadership positions at the Northwest Minority Suppliers Council, Tacoma Housing Authority, and the Washington State Department of Corrections.  

Cooper is also a member of the National Football League Retired Players Association. Along with his son, former NFL player Xavier Cooper, he co-founded a scholarship organization called Everyone Learns Differently.

Cooper said his family is extremely supportive of his retirement. His daughters Keysha-Rae and Lora and grandson Markiss Ron all pushed for it to happen. Cooper’s son, Xavier, recently told him, “Pops, it’s time. It’s time to let it go.”