Ralph Cooper (16 January 1908 – August 4, 1992), was the originator and the master of ceremonies of Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. He was born on 16 January 1908 in New York City. He worked as a dancer in small downtown clubs near New York University, which he attended for one semester.
Mr. Cooper, who was also an actor, choreographed the Shirley Temple film “Poor Little Rich Girl,” and appeared in films with Lena Horne and Duke Ellington. He was also the author of 10 screenplays and a co-author of Amateur Night at the Apollo (HarperCollins, 1990).
In 1935 he eventually became involved in the business side of music, he started the Apollo’s Amateur Night which ran every Wednesday night. He began his career as a dancer in small downtown clubs near New York University, which he attended for a semester. The Apollo closed in the 1970s, but the contest was restarted in 1985 after the renovations were completed.
He was again the master of ceremonies. His son, Ralph Cooper 2nd, took over the show after his father was hospitalized with cancer. He died on August 4, 1992.