|Rodney Mims Cook, Sr.|
|Member of the Georgia House of Representatives
from the 123rd district
March 23, 1924|
Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
|Died||January 13, 2013
Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Lane Young (m. 2003)
Sidney Adamson (m. 1970s–2002)
|Parents||James Leslie Cook
Bess Mims Cook
|Residence||Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.|
|Alma mater||Washington and Lee University (BA)|
Cook was one of the first Republican officials elected in Georgia since Reconstruction. He served at-large as an Atlanta alderman and a member of the Georgia House simultaneously for a number of years. A law has since been passed to prohibit dual offices being held. He was heavily involved in legislative proposals in areas pertaining to civil rights, zoning, urban renewal, the Atlanta Airport, the Interstate Highway system, and the Atlanta Stadium Authority housing the Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Falcons professional sports teams. The commemorative plaques on these buildings including Hartsfield-Jackson International airport record his efforts.
Cook was born in Atlanta to James Leslie Cook and Bess Mims Cook. His father owned a number of men's clothing stores around the southeastern United States. Cook's mother, a member of the Mims family, have influenced the history of Georgia for over 200 years. Her grandfather's farm, called Red Oak, was destroyed by the invading army of General William T. Sherman during the Siege of Atlanta and the March to the Sea. The record of damages paid to this family by the Federal Government are in the archives of the Library of Congress and include the family's efforts to bring about a peaceful conclusion to the Civil War.
Cook attended Washington and Lee University and graduated valedictorian and summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1947. His college education was interrupted by World War II, during which Cook was a lieutenant in the United States Navy in the Pacific Theater. He served on the USS DuPage (APA-41), that was hit by a kamikaze pilot during the war, but he was uninjured.
Upon leaving the military, Cook returned to Georgia and later, with Robert Mathis built the Peachtree Planning Corporation, an insurance company. He entered into the political arena in 1962 by serving as a member of the Atlanta Board of Aldermen, where he chaired the Planning and Development Committee and was a member of the Parks and Zoning Committees until 1970.
In 1966, he became a member of the Georgia House of Representatives, the first Republican elected county-wide in Fulton County to the Georgia House of Representatives. He remained in the legislature until 1972, serving as chairman of the Joint Senate–House Committee on Computerized Criminal Records and as a member of the Appropriations, Ways and Means, and Industry Committees. Cook unsuccessfully ran for Mayor of Atlanta in 1969, where he was defeated by Sam Massell. He returned to the House of Representatives and became chairman of the Georgia Republican Party and later ran unsuccessfully for Governor of Georgia in 1978 on the Republican ticket against Democratic incumbent George Busbee. His leading the ticket created a Republican majority in the Georgia Delegation to the United States Congress for the first time since Reconstruction.
In 1962, Cook made a speech in the Georgia State Capitol to take down the "Peyton Wall," a barrier that was built to stop black citizens from moving into a white section of Atlanta. His speech ( on YouTube, on YouTube) incited the KKK to burn a cross on the lawn of his home in Buckhead. He encouraged Atlanta citizens to participate in urban renewal and contested systems that discriminated against minorities, particularly in regard to housing rules.
He was one of just five white representatives (out of 205) who voted to seat the duly elected African American candidate Julian Bond in the state legislature in 1966. The legislature removed Bond due to his anti-war positions. The United States Supreme Court returned him to office.
Cook was the lieutenant of Mayor's William B. Hartsfield and Ivan Allen, shepherding federal and state funding to the City of Atlanta resulting in unprecedented growth during the 1960s and 1970s. He counted Martin Luther King, Sr, known as Daddy King as a friend and was instrumental, along with Mayor Allen and Coca-Cola CEO Robert Woodruff in keeping Atlanta peaceful in the aftermath of the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. His career was championed by the Atlanta business community, particularly Mills B. Lane, Savannah native and CEO of the Citizens and Southern National Bank, (now Bank of America), and also James D. Robinson, Jr., CEO of the First National Bank of Atlanta, (now Wells Fargo). Cook championed the careers of Paul Coverdell and Newt Gingrich, later a United States senator and Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively. Both men were trusted advisors to Cook and Speaker Gingrich noted this in a speech he made on C-Span decades later. (view video here)
The papers of Cook are housed at the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia Libraries.
Cook first married Bettijo Hogan Cook, a member of the Sewell family. The Sewells arrived in America at Jamestown, Virginia in 1610 and later settled downriver at Sewell's Point, currently a United States Navy base. Mr.Cook was married to Sidney Adamson, of the Philadelphia Adamson's, from the 1970s until her death on 23 January 2002. In 2003 he married Lane Young of Savannah and Atlanta at Blenheim Palace.
Cook was the father of two daughters and a son. His son, Rodney Mims Cook, Jr., is President of the National Monuments Foundation, owner of the Millennium Gate at Atlantic Station in Atlanta and is currently coordinating the design for the memorial to John Adams and John Quincy Adams in Washington.
Cook died at his home in Atlanta on January 13, 2013, due to complications from heart failure. His funeral service was scheduled for January 19 at the Millennium Gate and Museum at Atlantic Station, to be followed by entombment in the Mims family vault at the Westview Abbey Mausoleum.
Cook was honored on Tuesday, January 15, 2013 in the Georgia House of Representatives Chamber Morning Order. The Honorable Joe Wilkinson delivered the on YouTube. On Wednesday January 17, Cook lay in repose at the Gothic City Hall Chamber. He was the only person to have this honor since Mayor Maynard Jackson. Visitation was at home in the Alexandra Park Chapel where Cook's flag-draped coffin had an Honor Guard of U.S. Navy, Atlanta Fire Department and Atlanta Police Department officers.
On Saturday, January 19, 2013, Cook's funeral ceremony was held at the Millennium Gate. Hundreds attended the ceremony led by the Very Reverend Sam Candler, Dean of the Cathedral of St. Philip. Civil Rights leader Ambassador Andrew Young delivered the eulogy. St. Philip's Cathedral choir and the Higher Ground Empowerment Gospel Choir performed. Mayor Kasim Reed, Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran, and Police Chief George Turner sent a fire and police department Honor Guard to compliment the full Military Honor Guard. Several fire engines and police cars were part of the funeral motorcade to Westview Abby Mausoleum where Cook was laid to rest in the Mims Family vault.