Anderson Cooper acknowledges that when most people think about his family history, they tend to focus on his mother, famed socialite Gloria Vanderbilt, and her illustrious pedigree. But the CNN host recently took a journey to reconnect with his late father, Wyatt Cooper, and made some remarkable discoveries.
As part of CNN's new week-long series, "Roots: Our Journey Home," in which anchors explore their ancestral history, Cooper took a closer look at his father's side of the family.
Cooper admitted that he has never felt fully connected to the Vanderbilts. And despite the fact that his father died when he was just 10 years old, in 1978, Cooper has always known they looked very much alike, and says he is drawn to his dad's "Southern roots."
Cooper traveled to where his father was born and raised, in Mississippi, visiting old cemeteries, discovering stories of his ancestors whom had fought in the Civil War. But it was at his dad's high school in New Orleans where he made an exciting discovery: A school employee handed Cooper a folder containing his father's report card from 1944.
Cooper's journey ended with an emotional look at his father's work as an actor and writer. Wyatt Cooper is now buried in Staten Island, beside his son Carter, Anderson's brother, who took his own life in 1988 at the age of 23.
"When you're a kid and you lose a parent, it's like the world as you know it comes to an end," he said. "There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about them both and wonder what they would think of me."
On Monday, Cooper and Michaela Pereira will host a special look at all 12 of CNN's "Roots" stories. The special will air at 9:00 p.m. ET.