Criswell’s Cooper remembered for scholarship, impact on Baptist institutions

Lamar Cooper

DENTON—Dr. Lamar Eugene Cooper Sr., 80, of Denton was a noted Hebrew and Old Testament scholar who spent his career serving Southern Baptist institutions of higher learning. Cooper died peacefully at home on Saturday, June 18, 2022.

He was born in New Orleans on January 8, 1942. He answered the call of his Sunday school teacher at First Baptist Church of Jena, La., to trust Jesus Christ as his Savior. Following his surrender to the Lord’s call to ministry in 1956 at youth camp at Glorietta, N.M., Cooper preached his first sermon–on Psalm 27–at FBC Jena.

After graduating from Louisiana College in 1963 with a Bible major and psychology minor, Cooper earned Th.M. and Th.D. degrees from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.  He also completed summer studies in archaeology at Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University.

He pastored churches in Louisiana and Texas before joining the faculty of Criswell College in 1978 as a professor of Hebrew and Old Testament. During his 33 years at Criswell, he was instrumental in getting the college regionally accredited. He served as Criswell’s dean of graduate studies from 1980-1989 and was executive vice president and provost from 1977-2012. He was also interim president twice during key periods of the college’s history and was named graduate dean emeritus in 2011.

Criswell College released a statement via social media over the weekend, reading in part, “Dr. Cooper’s legacy at the college cannot be overstated. … The debt all of us owe Dr. Cooper is immense.”

Between stints at Criswell, Cooper served at the Christian Life Commission (now Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission) of the Southern Baptist Convention and at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary as vice president of academic affairs and dean of faculty. In 2012, he stepped away from administration and went back to the classroom full-time at Criswell until his retirement in 2019.

Cooper participated in his first archaeological excavation in Israel at Tel Be’er Sheva in 1969. He also worked at Yoqune’an, the Temple Mount Salvage Project, and Qumran.

His numerous published works include Ezekiel in the New American Commentary series. He was a contributing editor of The Believer’s Study Bible and Criswell Study Bible and provided commentary and notes for The Apologetics Study Bible and The Message.

Cooper loved God’s Word. He devoted his life to studying, memorizing, and teaching Scripture. He often challenged people to memorize Scripture by saying, “You can’t ‘REmember’ until you member.”

He was a longtime member of First Baptist Church of Dallas, where he served as class minister, theologian in residence, and teacher of the Criswell Bible Class, which was broadcast on radio station KCBI.

In 1963, Cooper married Barbara Ann Agent, who preceded him in death. In 2007, he married Diana Owen and they were blessed to enjoy his later years together. He greatly loved spending time with and cooking for his family and traveling.

Cooper was preceded in death by his parents, two brothers, and wife Barbara. He is survived by his wife Diana, four children, and six grandchildren.

A celebration of life service will be held Friday, June 24, at 10 a.m. in Ruth Chapel at Criswell College, 4010 Gaston Avenue, Dallas, Texas 75246, with interment to follow at Restland.

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