Baylor, City of Waco rededicate street to honor local reverend

The son of M.L. Cooper Jr. speaking at the rededication and sign unveiling for M.L. Cooper. Lilly Yablon | Photographer

By Rory Dulock | Staff Writer

Baylor and the City of Waco rededicated a street Monday in honor of Rev. M.L. Cooper Jr. with a formal unveiling for the new street sign, located between the Dutton Avenue parking garage and George W. Truett Theological Seminary.

Waco Mayor Dillon Meek said the unveiling of the new street sign pays tribute to Rev. Cooper for his legacy that left a mark on Baylor University and the City of Waco.

“For over two decades, Rev. Cooper led the historic Second Missionary Baptist Church with unwavering dedication,” Meek said. “The new road that we’re standing on right now, M.L. Cooper Drive, stands as a testament to his enduring impact and the spiritual journey he guided.”

Those who participated in the unveiling of the street sign include Meek, Baylor President Linda Livingstone, Baptist historian Alan Lefever and Marcus Cooper III, son of Rev. M.L. Cooper Jr., who spoke on behalf of the Cooper family.

Meek also said the rededication of the street helps commemorate not only a physical space but also celebrates his enduring spirit.

“Waco is a stronger city because of individuals like Rev. Cooper,” Meek said. “His service and the countless lives he touched have contributed to the rich tapestry to our community. His legacy serves as a reminder of the strength that can be found when individuals commit themselves to Christ in the betterment of a city.”

Cooper III said the street sign not only honors the legacy of his father but also restores the legacy of all the people who lived, worked and worshiped on this street.

“You know, it’s not every day that we get a chance to rededicate a street,” Cooper III said. “And our prayer is that of the hundreds of people who will drive this way, pass by this sign, will look up and say, ‘Who was this man?'”

Rev. Cooper came to Waco and immediately embraced the town and became involved in making changes, Cooper III said.

“Over time as a child, I saw him become more accepted in the Waco community,” Cooper III said. “I tried to imagine what he would say if he was here today … he would say, ‘You know, this is a mighty good day for Baylor University, Second Baptist and the City of Waco.'”

Livingstone said Rev. Cooper was a leader in the community who lived a life of public service and ministry.

“We are proud of the outstanding work that he did in our community, and we are excited to honor him permanently on the Baylor campus,” Livingstone said. “His legacy of hope and laboring unto glory endures into today.”

Rev. Cooper’s understanding of relationships made him an effective leader, Lefever said.

“Once again as [Rev. Cooper] came to Waco, he thought he would get away from the leadership positions,” Lefever said. “But he was called again to be a leader, … and he immediately became involved in integration once again.”

Lefever said Rev. Cooper was responsible for much of the integration that happened in the Waco area.

“If I was a Waco businessman in the 1960s and if I saw M.L. Cooper in my office, the next thing I knew was going to happen is that my business was going to get integrated,” Lefever said. “Changes happened here at Baylor at the same time; we as a campus integrated in 1964, and he was part of that as well, encouraging Baylor.”