Black History Month began with a very special celebration in Fitchburg this year, one that recognized a local trailblazer and provided tribute to her tremendous impact and continued contributions to the community: Frances Huntley-Cooper.
Huntley-Cooper was honored Feb. 1 by the University of Wisconsin Credit Union as it unveiled and dedicated the “Frances Huntley-Cooper Executive Conference Room” at its new, state of the art office facility in Fitchburg. At the dedication luncheon, guests admired the facility and enjoyed traditional soul food from Melly Mel’s, a local Black-owned business.
“What an honor to be recognized in my home city,” Huntley-Cooper said. “I remain truly humble by this recognition given to me by Fitchburg’s leading credit union and the support of my guests and many UWCU employees.”
Later in the month, the Fitchburg Common Council chambers has a new name after alders voted to rename it in honor of a former mayor and District 1 alder whose impact on the community has gone far beyond that room.
Alders voted 7-1 to rename the chambers for Frances Huntley-Cooper during the March 8, meeting, with Ald. Jay Allen (Dist. 3) declining to vote because he felt that the recognition for Huntley-Cooper should be in a more public place, such as the renaming of a section of a highway.
The resolution to name the council chambers came after discussions with Boys and Girls Clubs of Dane County CEO and president Michael Johnson, who proposed last November in a letter to the city that alders honor the only Black woman elected as mayor in the state by renaming City Hall in her honor.
Huntley-Cooper has spent her life in strengthening community and serving others. Raised in Elizabethtown, North Carolina, with her twin, and went on to attend North Carolina A&T State University.
She had a 28-year career in the Dane County Department of Human Services, was a two-term alderperson and subsequently elected mayor of Fitchburg from 1991 to 1993, garnering the distinction of her becoming the first African American elected to lead a Wisconsin city.
She has served in several state leadership roles, on national and international commissions, and was elected as a Democratic National Convention delegate for Obama and other candidates. She is a charter member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority (Kappa Psi Omega chapter) and served four years as president of the Madison branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Huntley-Cooper currently serves as the capital campaign co-chair for the Center for Black Excellence and Culture, in addition to leadership roles with other organizations and institutions.
Recipient of the both the Wisconsin Women in Government, Inc.’s Woman of Achievement and YWCA Women of Distinction awards, Huntley-Cooper is a trailblazer for women seeking political office and is a longtime social worker dedicated to supporting students of color.