The Honorable Rodney Mims Cook, a 7th generation Georgia public figure who served for over twenty years as an Atlanta city alderman and member of the Georgia House of Representatives, died January 13th at his family's home, Alexandra Park. He was 88. Cook was born in Atlanta to James Leslie and Bess Mims Cook. His paternal family established men's clothing stores around the southeastern United States. His maternal family has impacted Georgia history for two centuries. Azariah Mims, Cook's great-grandfather exerted exemplary, though controversial efforts to bring peace to the South; his efforts are recorded in the Library of Congress....
The Honorable Rodney Mims Cook, a 7th generation Georgia public figure who served for over twenty years as an Atlanta city alderman and member of the Georgia House of Representatives, died January 13th at his family's home, Alexandra Park. He was 88.
Cook was born in Atlanta to James Leslie and Bess Mims Cook. His paternal family established men's clothing stores around the southeastern United States. His maternal family has impacted Georgia history for two centuries. Azariah Mims, Cook's great-grandfather exerted exemplary, though controversial efforts to bring peace to the South; his efforts are recorded in the Library of Congress. Despite this, his farm called Red Oak was destroyed by the invading army of General William T. Sherman during the Siege of Atlanta. Another ancestor, Mayor Livingston Mims donated the Olmsted designed Mims Park in the late 19th century, the first integrated park in the city's history. The park no longer exists, but Cook called for its reconstruction which is now underway with the support of Mayor Kasim Reed.
Cook attended Washington and Lee University and graduated valedictorian, Phi Beta Kappa, and summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree and membership in ODK. His college education was interrupted by World War II, during which Cook was in officer training at Cornell, becoming a Lieutenant in the United States Navy in the Pacific Theater. He served on the USS DuPage (APA-41), which was hit by a kamikaze plane during the war, though he was uninjured. Cook was a witness from the deck of an adjacent ship, to the surrender of Japan in Tokyo Bay, on the USS Missouri.
Cook was among the first Republican officials elected in Georgia since Reconstruction. At the request of Mayor William B. Hartsfield, he served at-large as an Atlanta Alderman and a member of the Georgia House of Representatives simultaneously for several terms to help foster Atlanta's exponential growth. A law has since been passed prohibiting dual offices being held. He wrote Atlanta legislation in areas pertaining to civil rights, zoning, urban renewal, the Atlanta Airport, the Interstate Highway system, Underground Atlanta and the Atlanta Stadium Authority housing the Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Falcons professional sports teams. Georgia legislative committees included Appropriations, Ways and Means, Industry and the Joint Senate-House Committee on Computerized Criminal Records. He became the Chairman of the Georgia Republican Party and was the GOP nominee for Governor of Georgia in 1978. The commemorative plaques on various public buildings including Hartsfield-Jackson International airport record his efforts.
In 1962, he delivered a speech on the floor of the Atlanta Board of Alderman, now called the Atlanta City Council, to take down "Peyton Wall," a barrier that was built to stop black citizens from moving into a white section of Atlanta. Called the "Berlin Wall" by the black community, Cook's speech stated that Americans were not a people who wall themselves apart from their fellow citizens. His speech incited the Ku Klux Klan to burn a cross on the lawn of his home in Buckhead.
Cook was one of few Representatives who voted to seat the legally elected Julian Bond to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1966. The House refused to seat Bond due to his anti-Vietnam War positions. The United States Supreme Court returned him to his rightful office. Bomb threats against Cook's home and threats of kidnapping his children were the result.
Cook was mentored by Martin Luther King, Sr., Mayors William Hartsfield and Ivan Allen, nurturing peaceful race relations and shepherding federal and state funding to the City of Atlanta resulting in unprecedented growth during the 1960s and 1970s, Hartsfield making the notable remark that Atlanta was the "city too busy to hate." Cook then 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. Rodney Mims Cook, Jr. shared that his father's college friendship with former Virginia Senator John Warner, resulted in an unusual paternal friendship. When Cook Sr. was head of the GOP, "he had a large fundraiser at the Fox Theatre and invited Senator Warner, who at the time, was married to Elizabeth Taylor. She filled the 5000 seat theater, was a great sport, and they remained friends." Cook Jr. stressed that his father's greatest contribution to Atlanta and Georgia was keeping the peace: "There were a number in his generation, black and white who quietly were the stewards of the South during the second half of the 20th century. Some of their meetings occurred in our home. Other cities were turning hoses or dogs on their citizens or worse, were burning. This intentionally did not happen here and Dad and his generation rose to the occasion to solidify and herald the Atlanta Way to the entire nation."
Cook's business career began with his mentor, Holcombe Green, at the Guardian Insurance Company. The Guardian was integral to him, the main office being based on Park Avenue at Union Square in New York. He was a member of the Presidents Council, President of the Guardian Leaders Field Force, and a life member of the Million Dollar Roundtable. He expanded the business with Robert Mathis, founding the Peachtree Planning Corporation, the 11th largest financial planning firm in Georgia and the third ranked privately held financial planning company in the state.
Cook served as President of the alumni board at Washington and Lee University, commissioning a bust of Justice Lewis Powell for the lobby of Powell's Supreme Court archives at Washington and Lee Law School. He was also a patron of Colonial Williamsburg, The Atlanta Humane Society, of which he was President and the Millennium Gate Georgia History Museum, where he reconstructed the 18th century Mims-Midway period room. Midway was the home of Lyman Hall, one of the three Georgia signers of the Declaration of Independence. Cook was a patron of the Prince of Wales Monument to the 1996 Olympic Games, the Buckhead/Midtown Gates at Brookwood Station, dedicated to his mother, and the Atlantic Station 5-ton Peace and Justice Gates. Cook, with his family and Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue drove a team of horses delivering the 5-ton bronzes to their permanent site. He was a member of the Piedmont Driving Club, Atlanta, the High Hampton Golf Club, Cashiers, NC and the Wachesaw Plantation Golf Club, Litchfield, SC.
The papers of The Honorable Rodney Mims Cook are housed at the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia Libraries. Following a Mourning Order of the Full House in the House of Representatives Chamber and lying in state in the Gothic Atlanta City Hall, Cook's funeral will be held at the Millennium Gate at 2:00 pm, Saturday, January 19th, officiated by the Very Reverend Sam Candler. The Higher Ground Empowerment Church Music Ministry and Reverend Dexter Johnson will complement the Cathedral of St. Philip Choir. Ambassador Andrew Young will deliver the eulogy. Burial will be at Westview Abbey Mausoleum in the Mims family vault.
Cook's marriage to Lane Young occurred at the chapel at Blenheim Palace, birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, on Thanksgiving Day, 2003. He is survived by his wife, two daughters, Jody and Laura Cook, a son, Rodney Mims Cook, Jr., and three grandchildren, English and Alexandra Mims Cook and Walker Mims Marshall, all of Atlanta.
Online condolences may be made at www.hmpattersonspringhill.com