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John Warren Cooke

Former Speaker of the House John Warren Cooke dies at 94

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John Warren Cooke
John Warren Cooke, 94, of Mathews died at his home Saturday, November 28, 2009.

A graveside service will be held at 1 p.m. Tuesday, December 1, at Ware Episcopal Church, Gloucester.

Mr. Cooke was born February 28, 1915 in Mathews, a son of the Rev. Giles Buckner Cooke and Katharine Grosh Cooke. A lifelong resident of Mathews, he was educated in local public and private schools, graduating from Lee-Jackson High School in 1932. He attended Virginia Military Institute from 1932-33.

Mr. Cooke was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates from 1942 to 1980. At the time of his retirement, he represented Essex, Gloucester, King and Queen, King William, Mathews and Middlesex counties. He also represented Charles City and New Kent counties during 1966-1972. He was Majority Leader of the House from 1956-68 and Speaker from 1968-80.

Mr. Cooke was the last son of a Confederate veteran to sit in the Virginia General Assembly.

During his time in elective office, Mr. Cooke served on the Virginia-Maryland Potomac River Commission on the Jamestown Anniversary Commission (1952-82), and as executive committee chairman of the Virginia Civil War Centennial Commission. He also served as a member of the National Legislative Association Board of Directors (1970-80).

While in office, Mr. Cooke received the National Legislative Leaders Association Award (1976), the Gloucester Chamber of Commerce Distinguished Service Award (1979), a Council of State Governments Citation, the Liberty Bell Award, the Richmond Bar Association Award, and a Virginia Press Association Award.

At the conclusion of his service in the General Assembly, Mr. Cooke was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree from the College of William and Mary in 1980.  He was the recipient of a Christopher Newport College medallion in 1986, and an honorary doctor of laws degree from Christopher Newport University in 1992.

In 1946, Mr. Cooke was elected to the board of Tidewater Newspapers Inc., publishers of the Gloucester-Mathews Gazette-Journal. He became president and publisher in 1954, resigning from the presidency in March 2009.

Locally, Mr. Cooke was a charter member of the first Mathews Rotary Club (1938) and served as its president for two terms. He was president of the former Tidewater Baseball League, chairman of the Mathews Ration and Price Control Board (1943-45), First District chairman of the Young Democrats (1939-40), and former chair of the Mathews County Democratic Committee. He was also on the former boards of directors for the Gloucester Country Club, Tidewater Telephone Company, and Bank of Gloucester. 

Following his service in the General Assembly, he became a director of the Tidewater Automobile Association, Norfolk. He was a member of Kingston Episcopal Parish, Mathews, serving on the parish vestry (1938-67). He also served on the boards of the J. Edwin Treakle Foundation, Gloucester; College of William and Mary Endowment Association, Williamsburg; Long Bridge Ordinary Foundation, Gloucester; Mathews Historical Society, Mathews; and Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation.

Mr. Cooke is survived by his wife, Anne Rawn Cooke of Mathews; daughter, Elsa Cooke Verbyla of Mathews; and son, Giles Buckner Cooke of Williamsburg.

Men of the Gazette-Journal will serve as pallbearers.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be made in the form of contributions to favorite charities.

posted 11.30.2009

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