David W. Cooley was a native of Hendersonville, NC but made a big impact on Memphis. He twice served as the CEO of the Memphis Area Chamber of Commerce (now Greater Memphis Chamber), first from 1968-73 and then again from 1984-95. During his second tour of duty, he formed a formidable triumvirate with Memphis Mayor Dick Hacket and Shelby County Mayor Bill Morris to market Memphis. It was during the mid-80s that they lured International Paper’s headquarters from New York to Memphis. The America’s Distribution Center campaign was rolled out and an emphasis put on regional cooperation. He was a stern boss but also a great mentor, a strong leader as well as a consensus builder, a champion of communities, and a true Chamber man.
Cooley was born February 6, 1929, in Hendersonville. After graduating from Hendersonville High School in 1948, Dave served in the United States Marine Corps. He returned to civilian life where he spent five decades working and managing Chambers of Commerce in Anderson, SC; Hendersonville, NC; Greenville, SC; Jacksonville, FL; Dallas, TX; Washington, DC; Spartanburg, SC; and Memphis, TN (twice) where he retired after his second stint in 1995.
Dave met his first wife Diane Miller in 1952. They married in 1953 and had six children: Ann, David, Elizabeth, John, Philip, and Matthew. After losing Diane in 1978, Dave met and married Beth Williford. Beth had five children: Alex, Catherine, Charles, Robert, and Kelley.
His life was marked by career achievements, world travel, and a large family including thirteen grandchildren and eleven great-grandchildren. Dave leaves behind a legacy that will not soon be forgotten. Family, friends, and acquaintances all over the globe will remember his large personality, strong demeanor, and his soft side.
Dave is survived by four of his children and five of Beth’s children and their spouses; grandchildren David, Peter, Elisabeth, Hannah, Folline, Quay, Katie, Read, Brynn, Ash, Allison, Maggie, and Lillie. He is also survived by his brother Arthur Cooley. Dave is predeceased by two extraordinary women; Diane and Beth and two children; his daughter Elizabeth and son David (Jr).
Dave faced the end of his life with great hope and faith in God, telling his family that he was ready to go “home” to heaven! He passed away on June 26, 2022.
Obituary by Ken Hall