Robert H. Cooley III

Dates Alive: 1939-1998

Family: Woodson

Location (at interview): Midlothian, VA

Robert Cooley, attorney, judge, and magistrate, was the son of Ruth Golden and Robert H. Cooley II.  He graduated from Virginia Union University and Howard University Law School.  He spent eight years as an attorney in the U. S. Army, being awarded the Army Commendation Medal.  Of his army service in Europe he said, “ I was free…I was not a black person.  I was an American.”

His appointment as a federal magistrate for the Eastern District in 1976 made him, as he said, “the first black American to serve as a judge on the Federal District Court in Virginia’s history.”  Cooley greatly admired his ancestor Lewis Woodson (“my hero”) and passed on the Woodson family’s emphasis on education to his children, who graduated from Thomas Jefferson’s University of Virginia, to which Cooley was denied admission because of his race. 


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