Dr. Samuel Dubois Cook, former Dillard University president, dies

Monday, June 5, 2017
The Louisiana Weekly

On the 29th of May, 2017, the world lost a titan in education, when Dr. Samuel DuBois Cook died at the age of 88. Dr. Cook was a key figure in New Orleans; he guided Dillard University for 22 years as the school’s President from 1974 to 1997.

In his time walking this earth, Samuel Cook was a man regarded for not only his work as an educator, but also as a writer, political scientist and civil rights activist.

Cook was born in Griffin, Georgia on the 21st of November in the year of 1928 to the Rev. Marcus Emanuel Cook and Mary Cook. Samuel’s father inculcated in him the importance of education, which set him on his path for greatness at the age of 15, when he was accepted into an early-admissions program at Morehouse College.

Among the other students, was friend and future American icon, Martin Luther King, Jr. The two were already acquainted having met at an earlier time in Connecticut, where they worked on a tobacco field to earn money.

During his time at Morehouse College, the young Samuel Cook, excelled greatly. He was elected student body president, and founded the campus Chapter of the NAACP. After graduating in 1948, Cook attended Ohio State University achieving his master’s degree and doctorate in political science (PhD in 1955).

To show his encouragement of the Montgomery bus boycott (Dec 5, 1955 — Dec 20, 1956), Cook wrote to his friend Martin,‘‘You have achieved that rare combination of social action and love.” A decade later (Jan. 27, 1965), Dr. Cook attended a banquet honoring Dr. King for receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, and said, “It was a great and delicate moment.”

After serving a brief stint in the United States Army during the Korean War, Dr. Cook’s career as an educator begin at Southern University, Baton Rouge. A year later he accepted a position at Atlanta University.

While at Atlanta University, Cook served as chair of its Political Science Department, where he continued to remain active in the Civil Rights Movement. Cook routinely held forums featuring activists like King, whom he considered to be ‘‘one of the major prophets and noblest spirits of contemporary culture.”

Cook met his wife Sylvia Fields in 1957. Sylvia, a Republican, was wearing a button for the Grand Old Party, when Samuel came up to her, and asked “Young lady, why do you have on that Republican button?” She then expressed that she did not believe the Democratic Party was an ally of the African-American community. However, after hearing Samuel speak at a forum, she walked up to him and apologized for her words. The two married on the 18th of March,1960.

In 1966, Cook broke through a wall, once believed unbreakable when he became the first African American to become a regular professor at Duke University. Following his time at Duke, Cook answered a new calling, bringing his wisdom and leadership to New Orleans in 1974 as the fourth president of Dillard University. In the course of his tenure at Dillard, Cook is credited for many initiatives, such as establishing a Japanese language studies program and a Center for Black-Jewish Relations.

Not one to ever rest on his laurels, Dr. Cook made history once again becoming the first African-American president of the Southern Political Science Association. Additionally, he served the American Political Science Association as its vice-president from 1978 to 1979.

Among his degrees from Morehouse College and Ohio State University, Dr. Cook also received honorary degrees from Dillard University, Illinois College, Duke University, the University of New Orleans and Chicago Theological Seminary.

He is survived by his wife, Sylvia; children, Samuel DuBois Cook Jr. and Karen J. Cook; grandchildren, Alexandra Renee Cook and Samuel DuBois Cook III; daughter-in-law, Nicole Cook.

Read the full tribute here