Mrs. Cooper was validated by the Gerontology Research Group in 2006. In 2009, after Beatrice Farve died, Besse became the oldest resident of Georgia, and became the oldest living person after Maria Gomes Valentim died on 21 June 2011.
Cooper was the seventh person to reach the age of 116 or more; after the passing of Chiyono Hasegawa, she became the last verified person born in 1896. She is also one of the three people to have lost the title of the oldest person but later regained it, the other two being Elizabeth Bolden and Jeanne Calment.
She died at the age of 116 years, 100 days as the eighth-oldest person ever recorded and the last person born in 1896, as well as the last living person born in the United States in the second term of Grover Cleveland, although Dina Manfredini also lived in the United States but was born in Italy during Cleveland’s second presidency.