She’s known as “6’3 Lady Vee” and as “The Tall Lady of Soul,” born and raised in Mississippi as Verbia Ray Cooper, now recognized as Verbia C. Harden. Born to parents Sylvester Cooper and Ida Ray Cooper, her upbringing was the Mississippi rule of “being true to oneself.”
Her true self came with her natural height to be a top string basketball player at Jim Hill High School, leading the team to a Mississippi state championship in 1966, and a natural voice that found its expression just for radio – no formal training necessary.
She says that when she was in 6th grade, her height was already at 6’2” and had never played basketball. She began playing in the 7th grade and by the time she was a high school senior, the ladies on the team “jelled together” and could beat everybody on the court.
She attended Jackson State taking courses in business administration. at a time when it did not have a basketball team and the WMBA had not been formed; so a career in sports was not an option. Nor did Jackson State have a Mass Communications department. She had a nice voice for which she received a lot of praise – again, no professional training for it.
Her objective was to “just get a job,” which led her to WOKJ to fill a secretary position. Then she became a weekend announcer, and eventually becoming a full-time radio personality. Her career in radio evolved as a “natural,” where she sees it as “being chosen,” giving credit to God for blessing her to follow this journey to become Lady Vee.
That’s the on-air handle given to her by Dwayne Reeves. And now that 50 years in radio broadcasting has passed and Lady Vee remains on the air, she reflects on how she has moved through the eras of Motown and Rap and other music jundras, through each era with an ease from one to the next.
She says having a job you are excited to get up every day and go to is a blessing. Her listeners enjoy her “laid back” style and pleasant personality, with that extra touch of caring for those who tune in.
The “Morning Stretch” is an anticipated segment where she breaks into the show with the “one minute stretch,” and whether you intended to or not – you find yourself following her instructions to “Sit up straight, breathe in – hold it … and exhale.” You feel immediately, now with a smile on your face that she intended to bring.
Lady Vee says her unique height made her conscious of maintaining good posture which leads to better self-confidence – the winning ingredient for any career.
Her listeners see her on occasions away from the radio station, and come up to her and say, “I grew up listening to your show, and I wanted my daughter to meet you.” She’s a “natural” with people, as one may be surprised to learn that she is the mother of two, grandmother to 11 and great grandmother to seven.
Her persona and success that evolved organically is encouragement to young Mississippi girls. She says she never had a problem of being a Mississippi girl because this is the environment she has always known. “If you have talent, it doesn’t matter that you are a Mississippi girl.”
She does not consider herself a role model but is very conscious of her listening audience and the impact she may have on someone. “Be yourself,” she says, “but know there may be little girls out there admiring you. Someone may occasionally say that because of me they got into radio.”
Lady Vee added, “Terry Lynn was the first female jock at WOKJ and I always admired her. She was my inspiration in radio.” She has no regrets for putting motherhood first and making decisions based on what was best for her children, which meant “staying close to home in Mississippi.”
Ever so often, someone will ask, “When will you retire” – the “Tall Lady of Soul” is now 75-years-old, to which she says, “Getting up and going to work is just so much fun.” Her advice to older women, she says, is “Straighten your back. Keep good posture, so you can breathe better. Your lungs open up.”
Reminiscing, she said, “I came up with the idea of the on-the-air breathing minute back in the 1970s. A nurse then told me to also ‘exhale’ – I encourage my older listeners to also know that they are getting older.”
State Representative Gregory Holloway was sponsor of the recent House of Representatives Resolution presented to her for “50 Years of Service on the Airwaves.”
The Resolution was part of the MISSISSIPPI LEGISLATURE 2023 Regular Session, House Resolution 55 “COMMENDING MS. VERBIA COOPER HARDEN FOR HER OUTSTANDING CAREER IN RADIO BROADCASTING.”
In the Resolution’s closing, it read … “It is the policy of the House of Representatives to commend exceptional Mississippians, especially those such as Ms. Harden, whose dedication to her listeners brings honor to the State of Mississippi.”
Lady Vee says this honor is the one she is most proud of and she thinks about the struggles of the ancestors. “This meant more than just picking up a resolution.” Along with being read into the legislative record, it was also distributed through the Capitol Press Corps.
Often for our “African American Mississippi women of greatness,” we go to the likes of civil rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer, the first black woman mayor of Mississippi Unita Blackwell and the first Mississippi state representative Alyce Clarke.
However, every now and then, we remember those women who simply make us all feel better about ourselves on a everyday level…; are you feeling a little down – fix that real quick by tuning into “Lady Vee” on WKXI-107.5 each day, as she signs off with “… Come back, because you never know when I may do it just a little bit better.”
She puts us all in that comfort zone, just like listening to a friend with a soothing voice. “That is one of the reasons I remain on the air. I make people feel comfortable,” Lady Vee says.
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