Joe Cook, oldest TPA, NNA, president dies at 91

Monday, 12 November 2001

Joe T. Cook made quite a name for himself during his career as a fourth generation newspaperman.

Cook, who died Nov. 3, 2001 at his Corpus Christi home at age 91, was the oldest living TPA past president, leading the association from 1945-46 while he was editor and publisher of The Mission Times.

Cook also was the oldest living editor of The Daily Texan, a post he held in 1931-32 at the University of Texas where he graduated summa cum laude in 1932.

He was the only National Newspaper Association president to also serve as president of two state press associations -- TPA and Mississippi Press Association from 1971-72.

In 1949-50 at age 39 he became the youngest publisher/editor to serve as NNA president when the association was called the National Editorial Association.

Cook also served as president of South Texas Press Association from 1937-38.

Cook was born Dec. 9, 1909 in Weatherford. His father, Thomas Milton Cook, ran the Albany News and the Weatherford Democrat and his grandfather Samuel F. Cook was an early editor and owner of the Albany newspaper. His great grandfather Thomas Cook published a religious newspaper in Arkansas and was a pioneer editor of the Huntsville, Ind. newspaper.

He graduated in 1932 from UT and married his childhood sweetheart, Dorothy McCanlies, a music major at Baylor University.

Cook learned his newspapering from the backshop up, beginning as a carrier boy for the Eastland Daily Oil Belt News where he also worked as an apprentice printer and Linotype operator. He worked briefly for the Eastland Record and began on the Mission Times in 1932 as advertising manager. He became editor/manager at age 24.

After 26 years in Mission where he eventually became publisher/general manager, Cook left for Mississippi to become editor/publisher of the Winston County Journal in Louisville, Miss., which he had purchased that same year in 1958. He retired in 1994 and returned to Texas to live in Corpus Christi.

Cook won numerous awards during his career, including the Herrick Editorial Award from NEA, the association's highest honor for non-metropolitan newspapers, and national general excellence awards from NEA. He wrote a first place editorial in the TPA contest and earned the Phi Beta Kappa key award at UT.

While in Mission, Cook helped the newspaper grow form an eight-page weekly with three employees to a 16-18 page weekly with 30 employees and a one Linotype shop to a large plant with Goss press that handled jobs from a spacious $100,000 new building.

His newspaper carried Voltaire's quotation "I wholly disapprove of what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it."

"This isn't exactly what one would label a 'policy,'" Cook once wrote in his paper. "But it is a statement of our belief in freedom to write and speak what one pleases within the bounds of decency and truth."

As TPA president his columns in the Texas Press Messenger advocated the advantages of a national unified advertising program to benefit weeklies.

"For too many years weeklies have operated in a circumscribed sphere, taking what national advertising that might be sent to them, and never taking the time or money to recruit more," Cook wrote in 1945.

He also campaigned for expansion of the journalism school at UT and tried to get more papers to use the Audit Bureau of Circulation.

Cook is survived by his wife, son Joe T. Cook, of Corpus Christi, and daughter, Dorothy Cook Potts, of Columbus, Ga., and seven grandchildren.