Story of the Month – April 2014

Submitted by Carolyn Horton (the daughter of Cooper Horton, Jr.)

April 29, 2014

Cooper Horton, Jr. was born in 1930 and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. His parents were Cooper Horton, Sr. from Birmingham, and Hattie Alma Barrett Horton from Verbena, Alabama. His father worked as a cost accountant for 40 years at the Tennessee Coal Iron and Railroad Company (TCI), a major American steel manufacturer in Birmingham, Alabama, with interests in coal and iron ore mining and railroad operations. Cooper lived in Central Park, in western Birmingham. He attended Central Park Elementary School, and Ensley High School where he was in the Army ROTC for three years.

Cooper Horton, Jr. was drafted into the U.S. Army in January 1951, when he was 20 years old, and a sophomore accounting student at Howard College in Birmingham. He was sent to six weeks of basic training at Camp Chaffee Arkansas. While there he said it rained nearly every day and was very muddy. He then was sent to Fort Sill Oklahoma for eight weeks of special training in field artillery. He came home for a 30-day leave before shipping out to Korea. After his leave, his military orders were to board the train to go to Chicago, Illinois, and from there to Seattle, Washington. He boarded a ship in Seattle with many G.I.s and they were on the way to Korea. The north Pacific sea was very rough. Cooper remembered that he and almost everyone else on board were seasick much of the way. They landed in Yokohama, Japan, and he then shipped into Pusan, South Korea.

During his Korean assignment, Cooper was in the 7th Infantry Division (‘Bayonet’), 49th Field Artillery Battalion, Headquarters Battery, supporting the 17th Infantry Regiment. He was promoted fairly quickly to sergeant first class due to his prior ROTC training. He worked in a fire direction center where his job was artillery recorder. In the fire direction center, the crew would take directions from a forward observer who would radio back with target locations for firing. The fire direction center crew converted the location information into firing data for the battery’s Howitzer 105mm guns. As an artillery recorder, Cooper was responsible for receiving, repeating, and recording firing commands and recording data such as ammunition expended and gun movements. He had a good capacity for concentration and attention to detail. His army buddies have said he was good at his job and good with people as well.

Upon his arrival in Korea, he was sent to Hwacheon with his battalion and participated in the capture of Hwacheon dam and reservoir. In August 1951, his battalion was involved in the

successful attack, capture and defense of ‘Hill 820’. Cooper was Baptist and read his bible at night during his Korean tour. He spent time with a young Korean boy, probably a war orphan. The young boy played ‘cowboy’ with the American G.I.s in the unit, and Cooper read the bible to him at night. For a period of two months in the fall of 1951, Cooper’s battalion was assigned as general support to the 1st U.S. Calvary Division. During this time, ‘C’ battery fired over 4000 mortar rounds in one 24-hour period. In November, the 49th again assumed support of the 17th in the ‘Punchbowl’ area. They defended ‘No Name Hill’ where the terrain was very rugged and the climate was extremely cold. During this time, Cooper contracted pneumonia, spent time in the military hospital, and had high hopes of going home. But he stayed on in Korea with the 49th until summer of 1952. He then spent a few months at Camp Breckinridge Kentucky with the 101st Airborne Division in the Headquarters & Headquarters Company until his separation from the army in October 1952. For his service, Cooper received a Bronze Star and other military awards.

When he was discharged, his parents and sister drove to Camp Breckinridge to bring him home to Birmingham. When they got back, his father gave him a new car, a ’52 Pontiac. He continued his courses in accounting at Howard College with funds provided through the G.I. Bill. During college he worked part time jobs selling vacuum cleaners at Sears and driving a book delivery truck for the Birmingham Public Library. He met Carolyn Skelton at the library and they married in September 1955. They went on their honeymoon in the Smoky Mountains in the Pontiac his dad had given him. In 1962, they had a daughter, Carolyn Sue, who is their only child.

Cooper worked as an accountant at Arthur Young, a national ‘Big 8’ accounting firm, for several years in Birmingham and received his CPA qualification. In 1967, he and a colleague established their own firm. The two men shared a dream of developing a prominent accounting firm, one distinguished in the Birmingham business community for its excellence in technical knowledge and client service. In subsequent years, the firm experienced success and a steady growth rate, and added more partners over the years. The firm is a full service accounting firm named Horton, Lee, Burnett, Peacock, Cleveland & Grainger CPAs – and is still in business today in Birmingham Alabama, serving clients throughout Alabama and the Southeastern United

States. Cooper was a forty-year honorary member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, and a member of the Alabama Society of Certified Public Accountants.

Cooper loved the outdoors and was an avid fisherman. He had a bass boat and fished in the many beautiful lakes in the area. He also made yearly trips with friends to Canada where he fished for walleyed pike fish, and generally had a great time. He always brought a big cooler full of frozen fish home for fish fries with family and friends. He also loved to travel. He and his family made several wonderful family trips together in the U.S., and to Europe and the Soviet Union during the 1980’s and 90’s. Carolyn, his daughter, remembered that he always wanted to rent a car and drive at their own pace with their own agenda. She remembered they had fun such times together – from driving on the Autobahn to driving on remote small farm roads in rural areas. Carolyn says, “There was never a dull moment and he always had a great sense of adventure.”

Cooper Horton, Jr. passed away on April 21, 2012 from complications from lung cancer. He was 81 years old. He had a wonderful life – both before and after the Korean War, and during the Korean War as well. His service in Korea was most definitely the most shining, important achievement in his life. He was a terrific role model, and a great father and friend. He is a wonderful example of a survivor who was able to overcome a very difficult war experience at a young age. He didn’t like to talk about his time in Korea, and we wish we knew more about it. His service there was without a doubt his meaningful accomplishment. We are very proud of him and all of the American G.I’s and their time in the Korean War.



Corporal Cooper Horton, 7th Infantry Division, 49th Field Artillery Battalion, Korea, Winter 1951

7th Infantry Division, 49th Field Artillery Battalion, Korea, 1951. Cooper is second from left,
standing in back row.

Me and Dad, Cooper and Carolyn Sue Horton, 2011