In the days when Atlanta aldermen could also serve as state representatives, Rodney Cook Sr. held both offices simultaneously, allowing him to help the state and city work in concert with each other.
“He was at-large for both the Board of Aldermen, now called the City Council, and the House of Representatives,” said his son, Rodney Mims Cook Jr., serving from the early 1950s to the early 1970s. “[Mayor William B.] Hartsfield wanted him in both roles, to secure funding that was helping build highways and the airport.”
Rodney Mims Cook Sr. died Sunday at his Atlanta home of complications from heart failure. He was 88. Services are planned for 2 p.m. Saturday at the Millennium Gate and Museum at Atlantic Station. His body will be entombed in the Mims family vault at the Westview Abbey Mausoleum. H.M. Patterson & Son, Spring Hill, is in charge of arrangements.
Cook was one of the few Republicans in leadership in what was then a heavily Democratic state, his son said. He was respected by many of his peers and opponents as he challenged the tenets of racism, his son said. In the 1960s Cook was not only a vocal opponent of the Peyton Wall — a concrete barricade designed to separate white and black neighborhoods that was erected by the city in December 1962 and demolished in March 1963 — but also was one of a handful of white representatives who voted to seat Julian Bond after his 1965 election to the House. Bond was a controversial civil rights figure who opposed the Vietnam War.
“My family is forever grateful for Mr. Cook’s bravery and righteous fervor in defense of my father during a very frightening and difficult time,” Atlanta City Councilman Michael Julian Bond said in a news release. “He possessed a type of courage that cannot be taught but from which much can be learned. This city is a better place because of Mr. Cook’s effort.”
Cook ran for other offices, including mayor in 1969 and governor in 1978. Though he lost his bid for mayor to Sam Massell, the two worked together on several occasions.
“Although we were opponents in a mayor’s race, I’m of the opinion he, too, would have made a good mayor,” Massell, president of the Buckhead Coalition, said in a statement. “I had great respect for his intelligence and his integrity, which made him very valuable to Atlanta’s progress and prosperity.”
Amid his political career, Cook, an Atlanta native and Naval veteran, was also a family man. He married the former Bettijo Hogan and the couple had three children. They eventually divorced and in the late 1970s he married Sidney Adamson Cook, who died in the early 2000s. On Thanksgiving Day 2003, he married Lane Young Cook.
In addition to his wife and son, Cook is survived by daughters Jody Cook and Laura Cook of Atlanta; and three grandchildren.