Dr. Cooper Kirk: Broward’s First Historian
Dr. Cooper Kirk’s mission to was uncover, preserve and disseminate the history of Broward County, Florida. Neither a native Floridian nor, at the outset of his career, a professional scholar, Dr. Kirk seemed an unlikely candidate for the role he was to play.
As this collection comprised of his index card file indicates, his interest was wide-ranging and inclusive, spanning the fields of ethnography, anthropology, religion, politics, military history, agriculture, folklore, and legal history. Dr. Kirk’s research notes, while detailed, are accessible and interesting reading to the casual reader. To the researcher, they are a unique asset from an impeccable source.
Dr. Kirk was born in Tyler, Missouri, in 1921. His family moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, when he was five years old. He served in General Patton’s Third Army following high school and later enlisted in the Navy, serving in the Pacific. As his early occupation, Dr. Kirk operated a local lawn care service to support his wife and four children. At the age of 38, while maintaining his business, he embarked upon an academic career, earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Miami and his doctoral degree from Florida State University. He went on to teach at Florida Atlantic University and local Broward high schools.
In 1972, Judge Clayton Nance realized his vision of a Historical Commission to preserve and gather the facts and relics of Broward’s past. Judge Nance could think of no one more capable or passionate about local history to take on the challenge of being the Historical Commission’s first historian than Dr. Kirk, who served in that capacity for 17 years.
During his tenure as the Broward County Historical Commission’s first historian and director, Dr. Kirk authored many notable books and countless articles describing the people and events in regional, state, and Broward County history. Among his classic works are William Lauderdale: General Andrew Jackson’s Warrior and A History of the Southern Presbyterian Church in Florida, 1821-1891.
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