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Robert Cecil Cook Papers

Identifier: M96

Scope and Contents

The Robert Cecil Cook papers are comprised of a variety of materials dating from ca. 1912-1979. The bulk of the collection focuses on Cook's career between 1955 and 1977, and emphasizes his activities as a businessman, publisher, author, and member of the Mississippi State Board of Trustees of Institutions of Higher Learning.

General correspondence and materials concerning the Board of Trustees are particularly reflective of the 1970s, but there are also glimpses of Cook's presidency of the University of Southern Mississippi and the social climate of Hattiesburg during the 1940s and 1950s.


  • Creation: 1912-1979
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1955-1977

Conditions Governing Access

Noncirculating; available for research

Conditions Governing Use

This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical / Historical

Robert Cecil Cook (1903-1979) pursued several careers during his lifetime, among them were teacher, administrator, publisher, author, and businessman. However, he is probably best remembered as president of Mississippi Southern College (now the University of Southern Mississippi) from 1945-1954.

Robert Cecil Cook, fourth president of Mississippi Southern College (now the University of Southern Mississippi), was born on July 6, 1903, in Fayette, Alabama. He was the third of four sons born to James Alfred Cook and Athea McKelvey Cook. His siblings were Alfred (the eldest), Marvin (who died of lockjaw in ca. 1906), and Edward (the youngest).

Cook's ancestors migrated from Union County, South Carolina to Pickens County, Alabama between 1830 and 1840. They left in search of better farming lands, which was the purpose of many early settlers of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi.

Cook's father owned and operated a small mercantile business in Fayette. In the early 1900's, some of Mrs. Cook's relatives (the McKelveys) moved to Oklahoma, where a citizen could claim 160 acres of land, free of charge, by homesteading it for seven years. In letters back home, they proclaimed Oklahoma the "land of opportunity", and urged family and friends to join them there. Yielding to their persuasiveness, James Cook sold his business in 1907, and moved his family to Rocky, Oklahoma - population 300.

James Cook quickly built a house for his family, and opened another mercantile store. But only 18 months after moving to Oklahoma, a typhoid epidemic struck the area, claiming the life of Athea Cook.

Left with three small boys to rear, James Cook returned to Fayette and reestablished his mercantile business there. Shortly thereafter, he married a longtime friend, "Miss Lucy", who was also a school teacher, in hopes of restoring some sense of normalcy in his life and the lives of his children.

Sadly, just three years later, James Cook died of pneumonia, leaving his children to the mercies of Miss Lucy, who apparently was not cut out for parenting. Within a week, she had sold the mercantile, the family home, and most of the furnishings, for cash. After having a tombstone erected at James Cook's burial site; depositing $3000 with a local probate judge to be held in trust for the boys' education; and leaving the boys with a neighbor; Miss Lucy departed for California, never to be heard from again.

Alfred Cook, who was about fifteen at that time, decided to remain in Fayette with a relative, and work at Brown Lumber Company, the local sawmill. Cecil and Edward were sent to live with their father's brother, Joe Cook, in Birmingham. Joe Cook and his wife, Mary, had five children of their own, and two additional ones did not fit well with Mary's plans. So after a brief sojourn with Uncle Joe and Aunt Mary, the two boys were taken to the Methodist Orphans Home in Selma, Alabama.

After a year in the orphans home, their father's sister, Jessie Cook Love, and her husband, Major William A. Love, decided to take Cecil and rear him in their home in Mississippi. Edward returned to Birmingham to live with Joe and Mary Cook.

The Loves' home was a 2000 acre cotton farm, about twelve miles from Columbus, called McGowah Place. The Loves had two children of their own - a son, William, who was in college when Cecil came to live with the family, and a daughter, Elizabeth, who was one year older than Cecil, who by this time, was about eleven years of age.

The Loves also owned a home in Columbus, where they lived during the school year, so that Cecil and Elizabeth could attend Franklin Academy (Summers were spent at the farm). The Stephen D. Lee High School in Columbus was completed during Cecil's senior year, and his was the first class to graduate from there.

Following high school graduation, Cecil enrolled at Mississippi Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Mississippi State University) to study agriculture, with a view toward running McGowah Farm at some point, since his cousin, William, had no interest in farming. However, after one year, he realized agriculture was not for him, so he changed to the School of Science, receiving his bachelors degree in 1924. By that time, the name of the school had been changed to Mississippi State College, and that is the name that appears on his diploma.

In the fall of 1924, at the age of twenty-one, he was hired as a science teacher at McComb (Mississippi) High School. At a faculty meeting at the beginning of his second year at McComb High, he met a "beautiful red-haired girl" named Bonnibel Wood (daughter of Mr. and Mrs. H. D. Wood of McComb), who was also a faculty member. The two became inseparable, and after a nine month courtship, they were married on June 30, 1926, at which time Bonnibel gave up her teaching career in favor of becoming a full time wife. ( Cook counted himself most fortunate in his choice of a mate. He described her as "a thoroughbred who has really helped me in the race of life.") Two children were born of the union - Robert Cecil (Bobby) Cook, Jr., on March 10, 1928, and Rhetta Louise (Rhetta Lou) Cook, on January 27, 1932.

Shortly after his marriage, Cook became Superintendent of Schools in Summit, Mississippi, a position he held for three years. During that time, it became apparent that more than a teacher's salary would be needed to provide the lifestyle to which he and Bonnibel aspired. Therefore, with $1000 as capital, he began a biographical publication called Who's Who in American Education. Two additional publications, Leaders in American Science, and Presidents and Deans of American Colleges and Universities were added later. Cook continued this avocation until 1968, when the publishing company was sold to Crowell-Collier Publishing Company of New York. By that time, the company had published twenty-three volumes of Who's Who in American Education, eight volumes of Leaders in American Science, and eight volumes of Presidents and Deans of American Colleges and Universities. Copies of each repose in most college, university, and public libraries in the United States and Europe.

In 1929, Cook was named principal and science teacher at the practice teaching school at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss), and the family moved to Oxford.

Cook attended classes at the Teachers College of Columbia University during the summers of 1929-1931, receiving his Masters Degree in 1931. He then secured a Rockefeller Foundation Scholarship and worked on his doctorate from the fall of 1931 through the summer of 1932, also at Columbia University.

When he returned to Mississippi in the fall of 1932, the Great Depression was in full swing. He found that his salary at Ole Miss had been cut by forty percent, which made his annual pay $2400.

In 1933, Cook was promoted to associate professor of education and Director of Student Teaching at Ole Miss. However, by the fall of 1934, he was being paid in scrip, rather than cash, and when he was offered the position of principal of Clarksdale (Mississippi) High School, at a salary of $3600 per year in cash, he readily accepted, and remained there for three years.

In 1937, Cook returned to Ole Miss in a full time position in the School of Education. He continued his studies at Columbia University during the summer months, and was awarded his doctorate in 1940. Shortly thereafter, he was named Dean of the School of Education at Ole Miss.

Cook had been commissioned a Second Lieutenant when he graduated from Mississippi State College, and had been promoted to First Lieutenant in the reserves. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, he wrote to the War Department offering his services in whatever capacity deemed most useful. And in November, 1942, he received a telegram from the War Department asking him to report to Camp Wallace, Texas for anti-aircraft artillery duty, as a First Lieutenant.

After two months of rigorous training, he was assigned to the 39th Anti-Aircraft Brigade in Seattle, Washington. There, he was dispatched to a battalion opposite the Bremerton Navy Yard on Puget Sound, whose principal objective was guarding the navy yard against Japanese aircraft.

In the summer of 1943, Cook was transferred to the Information and Education Branch of the Army, and received training at Stanford and Washington & Lee Universities in organizing G. I. Universities in Europe and elsewhere for the purpose of educating G.I.'s after the war. Toward that end, he was sent overseas in 1944, and assisted in organizing G.I. Universities in London and in Paris.

In early 1945, Mrs. Cook wrote to her husband informing him that the Mississippi State Board of Trustees of Institutions of Higher Learning was seeking a new president for Mississippi Southern College, in Hattiesburg, to succeed J. B. George, whom the Board had declined to rehire. A friend on the board, Oliver Emmerich, had placed Cook's name in nomination. Mrs. Cook later wrote telling him that he had been elected, but he was in the process of being discharged from the army, and received no mail for about a month. Therefore, he knew nothing of his selection until he arrived in New York City on about July 3rd, and was told by his friend, Russell Downing, Director of Radio City Music Hall, that he (Cook) had been elected president of "some college in Mississippi." At that point, he telephoned Dr. E. R. Jobe, a member of the Board of Trustees, to verify the news. Jobe informed him that he had been elected president of Mississippi Southern College, and had been on the payroll since July 1.

Cook arrived in Hattiesburg, on July 5, and was discharged from the army, with the rank of captain, on July 6, 1945, at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. On July 7, he made his initial visit to the Mississippi Southern College campus. He found the president's home occupied by two faculty members who were raising chickens, for profit, in the back yard. The boarders were reluctant to leave, so the problem was turned over to Mrs. Cook, who was able to persuade the errant tenants to leave, so that she could tackle the task of making the premises more habitable.

Cook's beginning salary as president of Southern was $6500 per year, the same as his predecessor had received during his final year. Perquisites included a free home to live in, a house servant, and a yard man.

Before accepting the job, Cook asked for, and received the Board of Trustees' permission to run a non-political school (at that time, a large number of faculty members were political appointees of various governors). Only half a dozen or so of the approximately forty faculty members held Ph.D's at that time, and student enrollment stood at a little over 300.

Cook's first appointment as president was Carl McQuagge, as principal of the Demonstration School. Dr. McQuagge went on to become Dean of the School of Education and Psychology. Other early appointments of which Cook was justifiably proud were Dr. Richard Aubrey McLemore as Dean of the college, C. O. "Chuck" Smalling as Financial Secretary, Ivah O. Wilber as Dean of Women, and Dr. Porter L. Fortune as Dean of the Basic College.

With the end of World War II and implementation of the G. I. Bill of Rights, a major influx of veterans was expected to enter the nation's colleges, and Cook wanted Southern to be prepared to host its share. A major obstacle was that during its history, Southern's student body had been composed mainly of women training to become teachers. Male students who attended were also primarily in the teacher training program. Cook realized that in order to attract more male students, the curriculum would have to be adjusted. Coupled with that was his vision to elevate Southern's image from "Hardy Street High" to a higher plane of respectability.

Priorities in achieving these goals were:

1. Creating a broader, more varied curriculum than the current slate of primarily teacher education courses

2. Enlarging and improving the faculty

3. Developing an outstanding Music Department

4. Constructing an effective athletic program

5. Establishing a viable town-gown relationship with the citizenry of Hattiesburg

All of these, he felt, would be beneficial in achieving statewide recognition for Southern, and attracting students who would formerly have chosen Mississippi State or Ole Miss.

Under Cook's guidance, the academic departments were restructured. The Department of Business which, at that time was small and insignificant, was expanded. Health and Physical Education were combined to create the Division of Health and Physical Education; Education and Psychology were combined; and History and Social Sciences became the Division of Social Studies. An entirely new division, Graduate Studies, was created, as well.

Cook was instrumental in the formation and establishment of:

1. The Reading Clinic - established in 1946 as part of the Department of Education and Psychology. Its primary function was to instruct teachers, reading clinicians, and research workers in the reading field. It also provided the services of diagnosing reading problems in both children and adults, and offered remedial work.

2. The Latin American Institute - established in 1946 under the direction of Melvin Nydegger. Its purpose was to provide short, intensive courses in the English language and North American culture for Latin American students (now known as the English Language Institute).

3. The Speech and Hearing Clinic - established in 1949, its purpose was twofold -- treating patients with speech disorders and hearing impairments, and training clinicians.

Cook's concern for all aspects of the college is reflected in the attention given to athletics. With the advent of World War II, the athletic program had virtually been placed on hold, as both students and faculty members (including head football coach/athletic director, Reed Green and Assistant Coach, Thad "Pie" Vann) volunteered, or were drafted for military service. After the war, both Green and Vann returned to Southern and resumed their respective duties, using leftover uniforms and equipment, plus $25,000 set aside by Dr. J. B. George for the resumption of athletics.

In 1949, Cook promoted Green to full-time Athletic Director and Vann to Head Football Coach. Over the next two decades, these two men helped to bring national recognition to Southern's football team, defeating the likes of the University of Alabama in both 1953 and 1954.

Also on Cook's agenda were plans to increase Greek activity on campus. He felt that a well-rounded social life was essential to college students, and encouraged the few existing local fraternities and sororities to affiliate themselves with national groups. He also advocated organization of new chapters of national groups. By 1952, Southern boasted six chapters of social fraternities and seven chapters of social sororities - all nationally affiliated. A number of academic and honorary organizations were also added, as well as, several leadership organizations, including Phi Delta Kappa and Omicron Delta Kappa.

In an effort to strengthen the band program, Cook recruited Raymond Mannoni (in 1952) from the University of Topeka as band director. His instructions to Mannoni were to build a good band, with lots of drum majorettes. As a result, the band grew to one hundred members and became known as "The Pride of Mississippi." Also, the precision dance/twirl team, "The Dixie Darlings" (originally called "Southern Belles") was formed. Both gained national exposure at the 1953 Senior Bowl game in Mobile, Alabama.

In 1954, Cook began to lobby for a new fine arts building. He was told by Governor Hugh White that the rural-oriented Mississippi Legislature would not "put up the money for a group of fiddlers." Undaunted, he invited the entire legislature to a banquet in the Heidelberg Hotel in Jackson, at which they were entertained by the orchestra and chorus, some of Southern's most famous athletes, and others from the school. Before the night was over, the Legislature had pledged to appropriate money to build a fine arts building costing in excess of $450,000.

One of the most interesting fund-raising projects spearheaded by Cook was that of securing $450,000 for a social-religious Student Center. The state would not agree to appropriate the money, so the administration devised its own means. They visited surrounding towns, such as Jackson, Laurel, Gulfport, Columbia, and Picayune for the purpose of soliciting funds. In return, the names of donors would be inscribed on plaques, which would be displayed in rooms named for the donors' cities. Next, they attempted to secure funds from various groups. Interestingly, the only religious groups to donate funds were the Episcopal Church ($7500) and the Catholic Cardinal of Chicago ($5000). Unfortunately, when the money was counted, the building fund was $250,000 short. At that point, Cook persuaded the state building commission to allot $50,000 for heating, lighting, and air conditioning, and then asked the Forrest County Board of Supervisors to provide the final $200,000. A special bond election was called, and representatives from Southern made speeches in almost every precinct in the county, seeking support. As a result, the measure passed, carrying all but one precinct, and the R. C. Cook College Union Building was completed in 1954. Cook's successes with projects such as this earned him a reputation as a "Promoter."

Other facilities attributed to the Cook administration are:

McCleskey Hall (1946) - originally an apartment type building for married faulty members

McMillin Hall (1946) - originally an apartment type building for married students

Panhellenic Building (1946)

Weathersby Hall (1947) - originally a women's dormitory

Addition to Home Economics Building (1947)

Sports Arena (1949)

Women's Physical Education Building (1949)

Hickman Hall (1951) - women's dormitory

Bolton Hall (1954) - women's dormitory

On Friday March 28, 1947, nearly two years after assuming the presidency, Dr. Cook was given a formal inauguration, the first such ceremony in the school's history. The ceremony was followed by a luncheon in the college dining hall, an inaugural tea at the president's home, and an inaugural ball in the college gym.

As testimony to a more innocent era, the only serious disciplinary problem that occurred during the Cook administration was a "panty raid" (a popular diversion on college campuses at that time) in 1953, the perpetrators of which confessed, and were duly reprimanded.

Cook established a harmonious town-gown relationship that had not existed with previous administrations. He was active in civic organizations and participated in civic projects, thereby forming lifelong friendships, as well as, garnering support for the college. His rapport with the town is evidenced by the fact that he was named Hattiesburg's "Outstanding Citizen" in 1948.

The list of Cook's accomplishments could go on and on, but it is sufficient to say that his efforts at developing, reorganizing, and diversifying the curriculum set the institution on a path toward university status.

In the fall of 1954, a new daily newspaper , the Jackson State Times was in its formative stage. Based on his reputation as a "Promoter" and his experience as a publisher, Cook was recommended to Chairman of the Board, Dumas Milner, as a candidate for Vice President and General Manager. He was offered a three-year contract at $25,000 per year, plus an attractive benefit package. When compared to his current salary of $12,000 per year, the offer proved irresistible, and he resigned as president of Mississippi Southern College, effective December 31, 1954, becoming the first president to leave that position voluntarily. Dr. Richard Aubrey McLemore was named acting president, pending selection of a permanent replacement. almost 3000, and the faculty numbered approximately 190, more than one-fourth of whom held Ph.D's.

Cook's newspaper career proved to be short-lived. After about six months on the job, the rapid pace and long hours that are part and parcel of the newspaper business undermined his health to the point that his physician advised him to seek a less stressful line of work. So on June 15, 1955, he resigned his contract with the State Times, informing the board of directors that he wished to return to the field of education. At that time, the paper had been in publication for several months, the first edition having been published on February 28, 1955. Unfortunately, competition from established newspapers proved too keen, and the Times folded shortly after Cook left.

Encouraged by a friend on the Board of Trustees of Institutions of Higher Learning, Cook sought to return to the, as yet, unfilled position of president of Mississippi Southern College. Local interest in the possibility of Cook's return was such that on Thursday, April 14, 1955, the Hattiesburg American stated in a headline story that Cook would be re-elected when the board met on April 21. However, the vote on Cook's bid to return was postponed until on, or about, the third Thursday of July, 1955, at which time, the tally was five for, and six against. The board then entertained a motion to elect acting president, Dr. R. A. McLemore, and again, the vote was five for, and six against. Finally, Dr. William D. McCain, Director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, was nominated and subsequently elected. An interesting footnote to the proceedings is that Governor Hugh White, a friend of the Cook family, chose to go fishing on the day of the balloting.

Contemporaries of Cook have suggested that he was rejected because his previous successes at Southern had jeopardized the dominance of the state's top two institutions of higher learning - Mississippi State and Ole Miss - and supporters of those venerable schools feared that if Cook returned, they would most assuredly continue to lose ground. If that were the case, the selection of Dr. McCain was a mistake of equal, or surpassing proportion, for within seven short years, McCain would lead Southern to university status.

His career at Southern over, Cook turned to other colleges and universities for possible employment. To his dismay, he discovered that his age (52) worked against him in every situation to which he was attracted. Unwilling to concede defeat, he returned to Hattiesburg and began an entirely new career in the insurance business. He had no background in insurance, but he joined forces with Ralph Hicks, an experienced insurance man, and within a month, he had raised $500,000 and secured a license to begin the Southeastern Life Insurance Company, with offices in the Magnolia State Building (now Magnolia Federal Building). Licensed in Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana, the business grew and prospered, and in 1962, the company merged with American Federal Life Insurance Company of Mobile, and thereafter was known as the Southeastern American Life Insurance Company. Cook served as president until the company was merged with Republic National Life Insurance Company of Dallas in 1969.

In 1968, Governor John Bell Williams appointed Cook to a twelve year term on the Board of Trustees of Institutions of Higher Learning, and he served as president of that body during the 1976-77 fiscal year.

As a member of the Board of Trustees, Cook discovered that Mississippi was one of only two states with no university press. To remedy the situation, he secured support from the board and the state's major colleges and universities, and in 1970, he organized the University and College Press of Mississippi, which operated on the second floor of the Student Union Building (now McLemore Hall) at the University of Southern Mississippi. Cook served as president (at no salary) until 1973, when operations were moved to Jackson, Mississippi. The Press's first publication was Mississippi Black Folklore, a bibliography by William R. Ferris, a faculty member at Jackson State College (now Jackson State University).

Cook was also a published author. His autobiography, McGowah Place and Other Memoirs, was published in 1973. The book was originally written as a somewhat autobiographical novel, entitled McKelvey Place, which was never published. In about 1976, drawing material from both McGowah Place and McKelvey Place, Cook wrote a new novel called Mist Over the Delta which was published in 1977.

Dr. Cook maintained an office in the William D. McCain Library on the University of Southern Mississippi campus from 1975 - 1979. In 1976, Cook suffered a stroke, which was somewhat debilitating, physically, in that he was compelled to walk with a cane, but he continued to work in his McCain Library office almost daily. The desk he used in that office was the one he used in the president's office of that institution. At this writing, the desk remains in McCain Library, and was used by Dr. Claude Fike, former Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, Director of McCain Library, and University Archivist at The University of Southern Mississippi.

Dr. Cook's contributions in the field of community service are too numerous to list in a limited space. However, a brief reference to some of the organizations with which he was associated seems appropriate:

- American Legion - Beauvoir Development Foundation - Boy Scouts of America - Forrest County Industrial Development Board - Hattiesburg Chamber of Commerce - Hattiesburg Public Library Board - Hattiesburg Rotary Club (president 1949-50; District Governor 1952-53) - Mississippi Authority for Educational Television - Mississippi Library Commission - Mystic Krewe of Zeus (reigned as Zeus XVII) - Sons of the American Revolution - Veterans of Foreign Wars

Cook was also a member of Alpha Tau Omega and Phi Delta Kappa fraternities; the Alumni Associations of The University of Southern Mississippi, Mississippi State University, and the University of Mississippi; the Newcomen Society; the Ciceronian Circle; and was a Colonel and Aide-De-Camp on the staff of Governor John Bell Williams.

Cook fraternized with scores of interesting and prominent people during his lifetime. Among them were Mississippi author, William Faulkner; Sam Woods of the U. S. Diplomatic Service; Mississippi Governors Tom Bailey, Fielding Wright, Hugh White, Paul Johnson, Jr., John Bell Williams, and Bill Waller; U. S. Senators John C. Stennis and James O. Eastland; as well as, numerous other state and local dignitaries.

For many years, Cook was a member, and elder, of the First Presbyterian Church in Hattiesburg. However, dissonance concerning liberal trends in the Presbyterian Church of the United States led to talk of separation from the national organization, and on September 10, 1973, Cook, being opposed to separation, resigned his position as elder, and subsequently joined Trinity Episcopal Church in Hattiesburg, where his membership remained until his death.

Among Cook's hobbies were golf, fishing, and gardening. Other interests included Broadway shows, when he and Mrs. Cook visited New York, and an occasional horse race.

Robert Cecil Cook died of a stroke on March 6, 1979, at Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. He is interred at Highland Cemetery, also in Hattiesburg. At this writing, his widow, Mrs. Bonnibel Cook, continues to reside in the couple's Hattiesburg home.

Robert Cecil "Bobby" Cook, Jr. (a 1950 graduate of Mississippi Southern College) is married to the former Lenore Selden, from Belzoni, Mississippi. They live in Lucedale, Mississippi, where Bobby is in the oil and gas business. They have a son, Robert Cecil "Rob" Cook, III. Rob lives in Mobile, Alabama, and sells stocks and bonds.

Dr. and Mrs. Cook's daughter, Rhetta Louise, was married to Richard Taylor "Dick" Dodder in 1951, in what was probably the first wedding ever held in the president's home at Mississippi Southern College. Mr. and Mrs. Dodder live in Hattiesburg. Mr. Dodder is retired, and Mrs. Dodder is employed in the Office of Educational Leadership and Research at the University of Southern Mississippi. The Dodders have three sons - Richard Taylor "Ricky" Dodder, II, who is a mechanical engineer for Lockheed in San Francisco; Kimbrell Cook Dodder, who lives in Madison, Mississippi, and is a self-employed businessman; and James Wood Dodder, who is in the insurance business in Jackson, Mississippi.

While he was alive, Dr. Cook said that if anything were inscribed on his tombstone, it should be "Educator," and truly, a large portion of his life was dedicated to that cause. But a closer look at his overall commitment to community service from his youth to the conclusion of his life suggest that his own philosophy, as it appears in the 1976-77 edition of Who's Who in America, might be a more suitable epitaph:

"Each person has a destiny, mostly small, but sometimes large, to perform, as he walks from the sunrise to the sunset of life."


13.00 Cubic Feet (27 containers, plus 2 oversize boxes)

Language of Materials



While the bulk of the collection pertains primarily to Cook's activities after 1954, a moderate quantity of materials relate to his years at Southern, and also interspersed in the collection are a small number of items dating from about 1912-1944.

A study of Cook's papers reveals him as a man of boundless energy, with excellent organizational skills, both of which served him well in his many activities. While much of his energy was directed toward fiscal success, a substantial amount was committed to community service through various civic organizations. He never seemed to shrink from the myriad committee appointments that came his way, and he was also actively involved with the political process on local, state, and national levels.


The collection has been divided into fifteen series, fourteen of which deal with specific subjects. Series XV is composed of miscellaneous materials that did not fit well with any of the other series. The first fourteen series are arranged alphabetically, and the fifteenth has been placed at the end of the collection. Series titles are as follows:

Series I: Articles

Series II: Board of Trustees

Series III: Correspondence

Series IV: Income Tax Returns

Series V: McGowah Place and Other Memoirs

Series VI: McKelvey Place

Series VII: Mist Over the Delta

Series VIII: Publications

Series IX: Rotary Club of Hattiesburg, Mississippi

Series X: Southeastern Building Corporation

Series XI: Southeastern Development Corporation

Series XII: Southeastern Life Insurance Company

Series XIII: Speeches

Series XIV: Who's Who in American Education

Series XV: Miscellaneous Materials

Items within each series are arranged either alphabetically, or chronologically, depending on which was most feasible, given the nature of the material. Several series contain subseries, which are also arranged either alphabetically, or chronologically.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Acquired by the McCain Library and Archives at The University of Southern Mississippi in three increments, beginning in 1969, when Dr. Cook donated two bound volumes of personal correspondence and five volumes of records pertaining to the Southeastern Life Insurance Company, which was founded by Cook. The second part of the collection was donated in 1980 by Dr. Cook's daughter, Rhetta Cook Dodder, and consists of the personal files in Cook's McCain Library office at the time of his death. The final item, a bound copy of Cook's autobiography, McGowah Place and Other Memoirs, was added by University Archivist, Terry Latour, in 1990.

Related Materials

University Archives - RG 2 University Photograph Collection

University Archives - RG 3 Board of Trustees

University Archives - RG 4 USM General History

University Archives - RG 32 University Union and Student Activities, Student Publications

Robert Cecil Cook Oral History Interview, F341.5 .M57x, Vol. 4

Photograph Log

M96-01 Rotary International Assembly 2 ½ x 4 ½, B & W, May 1952. Group of Rotarians in Lake Placid, New York (Robert Cecil Cook: 3rd row 2nd from right) (Box 26, Folder 20)

M96-02 Cook and Love Families 3 ½ x 5 ½, B & W, 1939. Group posed next to a house. Photo Features: (R.C. Cook, Jr., Bonnible Cook, Elizabeth Love Champion, Jessie Love, Elizabeth Champion Daughter, and Rhetta Lou Cook) (Box 26, Folder 20)

M96-03 Groundbreaking for USM Stadium Addition 8 x 10, B & W, 1974. Group of men standing on the USM football field, President William D. McCain is holding the groundbreaking shovel. Photo Features: (Stone Barefield, Dickie McKenzie, Bob Arrington, Reed Green, William D. McCain, Bobby Chain, R.C. Cook, Roland Dale) (Box 26, Folder 20)

M96-04 Group of People Wearing Academic Gowns 5 x 7, B & W, 1976. Four Men and one Woman wearing academic gowns- probably at a Mississippi University for Women Commencement Program Photo Features: (Bobby Chain, Unidentified Woman, Mike Sturdivant, Dr. Charles P. Hogarth, Robert Cecil Cook) (Box 26, Folder 20)

M96-05 Bobby Chain, Mike Sturdivant, R.C. Cook 5 x 7, B & W, 1976. Three men wearing academic gowns. All were members of Mississippi State Board of Trustees Institutions of Higher Learning Photo Features: (Bobby Chain, Mike Sturdivant, Robert Cecil Cook) (Box 26, Folder 20)

M96-06 Mississippi ETV Board 8 x 10, B & W, 1975. Six members of the Mississippi Educational Television Board, including Dr. R. C. Cook, who represented the Board of Trustees of Institutions of Higher Learning (Box 26, Folder 20)

M96-07 Mississippi ETV Board 8 x 10, Color, 1975. Eight people (7 men & 1 woman) seated around a conference table. Dr. Cook is the 2nd from right (Box 26, Folder 20)

M96-08 Joe Cook 2 x 3, B & W Joe Cook age 17, Nephew of Dr. R. C. Cook (his brother Edward’s son) (Box 26, Folder 20)

M96-09 German Castle visited by Dr. & Mrs. R. C. Cook 3 ½ x 5, B & W, 1952. Photograph of Schloss Hoehenried, Castle in Germany, owned by Mr. & Mrs. Sam Woods (Box 26, Folder 20)

M96-10 “Goldie”, a Miniature Collie 3 x 4 ½, Color. Miniature Collie posed on foot stool in front of TV set. Owned by Mr. & Mrs. W.P. Martzall of Lancaster, PA Mrs. Martzall (nee Ida Mae Webb) attended McComb (MS) High School in the 1920’s, when Dr. R. C. Cook taught there. (Box 26, Folder 20)

M96-11 Employees of Southeastern Life Insurance Company 8 x 10, B & W, 1960’s. Large group of S.E. Life Employees standing in front of Southeastern Life Building (Box 26, Folder 20)

M96-12 “Mr. Southeastern” Award Presentation 8 x 10, B & W, 1962. Tommy Davenport and Howard Lucius present “Mr. Southeastern” plaque to Bill Hannaford. All three are employees of Southeastern Life Insurance Company (Box 26, Folder 20)

M96-13 Group Photo of Southeastern Life Employees and Spouses 8 x 10, B & W. Southeastern Life Insurance Company Employees and spouses at Broad Water Beach Hotel, Biloxi, MS Photographer: Paul Montell (Box 26, Folder 20)
Robert Cecil Cook Papers
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Repository Details

Part of the Historical Manuscripts and Photographs Repository

118 College Drive - 5148
Hattiesburg MS 39406-0001