Cooley bestowed with the MLK Award of Excellence
Published 7:00 am Wednesday, January 18, 2017
During Monday’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day ceremonial service at the Rose of Sharon Church of God in Christ, the MLK Committee presented Picayune resident D.K. Cooley with the MLK Award of Excellence. This award is given to an individual for their lifetime of achievements, as well as serving as a role model to future generations.
Cooley was one of the first African-Americans to enter the U.S. Marine Corps after President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order to integrate the military service, Picayune City Councilman Larry Breland said.
The 91-year-old veteran has been honored with many awards throughout his lifetime, but a couple of years ago, he received his highest honor, Breland said. On March 21, 2014, Cooley was the recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal—the highest civilian honor—for his service in a segregated Marine Corps. He was among 20,000 African-Americans who trained at Montford Point Camp in Jacksonville, N.C., between 1942 and 1949, Breland said. After that, he became one of the first African-Americans to enlist and serve in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Along with the Congressional Gold Medal, Cooley was awarded his certificate of graduation from Veterans School at George Washington Carver High in Picayune in 1952, was recognized as one of several black community leaders on September 14, 2013 and was honored as the Deacon Emeritus for his years of service as a deacon at Pilgrim Bound Baptist Church.
“I do not feel like I deserve this award, but I will gladly accept it because y’all told me to,” Cooley said.
Cooley was born on Oct. 17, 1925 in Heidelberg, Miss. He is a loving husband to Dorothy Cooley and a father of five children, including Brenda, Faye, Angela, Karen and Don. Cooley is also a grandfather of nine and a great-grandfather of 13, Breland said.
In 1944, the Cooley family moved to Picayune. Cooley was drafted into the military shortly after. Cooley served during World War II in the U.S. Marine Corps and was discharged two years later, becoming a permanent resident of Picayune.
Cooley has been an active member of Pilgrim Bound Baptist Church for 70 years. He is a self-taught musician and served as choir director for the church’s junior and senior choirs. During his tenure at the church, he volunteered as a teacher and deacon, Etta Scott, MLK Committee chairperson, said.
His lifetime of achievements was recognized on Monday with an MLK Committee plaque.
As Proverbs 16:31 scripture reads, “Gray hair is a crown of glory, it is gained in a righteous life.”