About the Chuck Cooper Foundation

The Chuck Cooper Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is dedicated to honoring the life and achievements and continuing the legacy of Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer, Charles “Chuck” Cooper, the first African-American drafted into the National Basketball Association. 


Upon retiring from the NBA, the Duquesne University alumnus obtained his master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Minnesota at a time when African-American matriculation to graduate school was a rare achievement. In 1970, Cooper broke another barrier when Mayor Pete Flaherty named him the Director of Parks and Recreation, becoming the first African-American Department Head for the City of Pittsburgh. The Chuck Cooper Foundation’s goal is to propel students to success in higher education so that they may achieve their highest potential in their careers and in life.


The Chuck Cooper Foundation awards graduate-level scholarships and provides leadership development programs, mentorship, and networking opportunities to underserved students. Since 2013, the foundation has awarded more than $280,000 in scholarship support. The Boston Celtics and the NBA are valued partners in helping the Chuck Cooper Foundation achieve its mission by providing financial support and highlighting Cooper’s ground-breaking basketball career.


Cooper’s son, Chuck Cooper III, is the founder and president of the Chuck Cooper Foundation.

“What we are able to accomplish in our foundation would not be possible without the support and partnership of our corporate, university and community partners. I am so grateful to be able to honor my father’s legacy and to share his deep commitment and passion for education and community!”

Chuck Cooper III

About Chuck Cooper

Charles “Chuck” Cooper officially broke the NBA’s color barrier on April 25, 1950 when the Boston Celtics selected him with the 13th overall pick of the NBA draft. When Celtics owner Walter Brown was asked shortly after the selection if he knew Cooper was Black, Brown exclaimed, “I don’t give a damn if he’s striped or plaid or polka-dot, Boston takes Charles Cooper of Duquesne!”


Cooper became a historic American sports figure and the first piece of basketball’s “Holy Trinity” that day as the first Black player drafted into the NBA. Cooper is joined in the Holy Trinity by two current Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famers – Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton (2014), the first African-American player to sign an NBA contract, and Earl Lloyd (2003), the first African-American to play in an NBA game. 

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Off the court

Cooper continued his pace-setting off the court upon his retirement. He earned a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Minnesota in 1960. In 1970, he became the City of Pittsburgh’s first Black department head and later served as Pittsburgh National Bank’s first Urban Affairs Officer.


Cooper was elected to the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 1974. Duquesne University has honored him by awarding the Chuck Cooper Award to a talented underclassman since 1983, retiring his jersey in 2001, playing a Chuck Cooper Classic game each season since the 2009-10 season, naming a building on campus, the Chuck Cooper Building, after him in 2011, and naming him as an automatic selection to its All-Century Team in 2016. The Boston Celtics posthumously awarded him with a ‘Heroes Among Us’ award in 2016.

Our Board of directors

View details about our Board of Directors. 

Charles H. Cooper III


Simone Quinerly


Dave Harper


Sydney Normill, Esq.


Robert Derda


Carolyn Cohen


Cheryl Larkin


Anthony Spalvieri, Esq.


Tom Rooney

Vice Chairman

Dr. Jimyse Brown


Catherine Mills


Dick Roberts