Published June 8, 2006
SAVANNAH — Virginia Donaldson has known Charlie Cooper, pastor of Burkhalter Baptist Church, nearly all his life. She recently stated, “He was a mischievous little boy, but saved at age eight and by the time he was 13 he was preaching on the street corner or wherever he could get an audience.”
Burkhalter and Cooper have been in a festive mood in recent months because the church celebrated its 50th anniversary on May 7 and Cooper, who has been pastor for more than half the church’s existence, celebrated his 25th anniversary there last December.
Cooper noted, with tongue in cheek, “The church has only had four pastors and three of them have been ‘Charlies.’”
The first pastor was Shirley Middleton, who served the church for less than a year. The second pastor was Charles McCall (now 92 years of age), who served the church for 20 years. Charlie Howell, who served the church for one year, was the third pastor. Then in December of 1981 along came Charlie Cooper, affectionately nicknamed “Super Duper Cooper” by John Beam, who served Baptists in Savannah for many years.
During Cooper’s ministry the Burkhalter church has grown from a Sunday School attendance of 42 to 195. The budget has more than quadrupled from $60,000 to $250,000. The church relocated 20 years ago and now claims total assets of almost four million dollars. When Cooper went to Burkhalter it was a single-staff church, but now has four fulltime staff members and two that are part-time.
Cooper’s church is strategically located near the Hunter Army Airfield. The airfield is part of the Steward/Hunter complex and covers about 5,400 acres. The base is also home of the U.S. Coast Guard Station, Savannah, which is the largest helicopter unit in the Coast Guard. It provides the southeastern United States with round-the-clock search-and-rescue coverage of its coastal areas.
The Hunter Airfield is regarded as the Army’s premiere power projection platform with its 11,375-foot long runway, which can accommodate any aircraft. Hunter’s mission is to provide base operations support for the 3rd Infantry Division.
The proximity of the Army base to the church has given Cooper and Burkhalter the opportunity to minister to military families. Furthermore, Cooper has seen 21 soldiers from his church go to Iraq in the past four years.
Burkhalter has started and supports a Korean Baptist church that is flourishing and reaching the ever-growing Korean population in the Savannah area.
Recently, Cooper had four widows accompany him to a senior adult conference at First Baptist Church in Jonesboro. Billie Collins, one of the ladies on the trip to Jonesboro, related, “Our pastor has the patience of Job, and he never backs up from preaching the Word. I also like his sense of humor, which I think helps to keep him sane.”
Prior to accepting the call to pastor the Burkhalter church Cooper served as pastor of Hatchechubbee Baptist Church near Phoenix City, Ala.; Bonabella Baptist Church in Savannah; Ogden Baptist Church near Yazoo City, Miss.; and Jasper Springs Baptist Church in Garden City.
Charlie married his wife, Linda, right out of high school. The Coopers have three grown children: Charles, Jr. (Chuck), Kimberley and Phillip. The couple also has six grandchildren.
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