From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Rich, Geneva Cooper

(born: 1911  -  died: 1989) 

Geneva Cooper Rich was a musician who played the organ and the piano, and she was an internationally known singer from Louisville, KY. She studied music under R. Todd Duncan at the Louisville Municipal College. She received the title of "Unofficial Ambassador of Democracy" while in Morocco in 1954. Geneva Cooper Rich had gone to Rabat, Morocco to join her husband, Clayburn Rich (1916-1991), who was a sergeant in the U. S. Air Force. While there, she trained singing groups and she performed at the Non-Commissioned Officers' Club. Her notoriety grew and Geneva Cooper Rich soon signed a singing contract with Radio-Maroc to perform American gospel music. She was the first African American to sign a singing contract in Morocco. She also sang live for the American-owned broadcast station in Morocco. In recognition, she received a letter of commendation from Mrs. Eisenhower for her work as a gospel singer with the Armed Forces in Northern Africa.

Prior to her career in Morocco, Geneva Cooper had been a member of several singing groups in Louisville, KY, and she had guest appearances on the television and the radio. She was one of the first African Americans to have a sponsored radio program in Kentucky. After leaving Kentucky and traveling with her husband, Geneva Cooper Rich lived in a number of locations. Her husband had been in the Air Force for 18 years in 1958 when the family of four moved from Blytheville, AR, to Lebanon, IN. They had planned to live in their trailer, but because they were Negroes, they were not allowed to station their trailer at any of the lots in the city. The family decided to live in a house and sold the trailer. In 1964, the family moved to North Highlands, CA; Clayburn Rich was stationed at McClellan Air Force Base. When the family moved to Kentucky, Geneva Cooper Rich was still performing and she sang the national anthem at the 1967 inauguration of Kentucky Governor Louie B. Nunn. She also wrote the song "The Modern Moses" in 1970 as a dedication to the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

For more see "Radio Morocco presents Kentucky gal's spirituals," Washington Afro-American, 04/26/1955, p.7; see p.317 in The Fascinating Story of Black Kentuckians by A. A. Dunnigan; "Appreciation," Indianapolis Recorder, 04/19/1958, p.6; "Arkansas family in trailer gets no Hoosier hospitality," Indianapolis Recorder, 03/29/1958, p.1 & 2; "Louisville singer, pianist, radio artist...," Jet, 07/09/1964, p.64; see Geneva Cooper Rich in "Judge Dawson to introduce new governor," Daily News, 11/19/1967, p.12; and see the entry "The Modern Moses" by Geneva Cooper Rich, on p.1080 in the Catalog of Copyright Entries, 3rd series, v.24, part 1, number 1, section 1, 1970: January-June, Books and Pamphlets, Current and Renewal Registrations, by Library of Congress, Copyright Office. Geneva Maxey Cooper Tilford was the author of Poems of Consolation, the title is available online at the Lexington Public Library.

Item Relations

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Rich, Geneva Cooper,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed May 20, 2024,

Last modified: 2024-01-05 16:46:17