Higher education stalwart Dr.Samuel DuBois Cook, a political scientist and human rights activist, died Monday in Atlanta at age 88. Cook, a Morehouse College alum and classmate of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is recognized as the first African-American to hold a tenure-track appointment at a major Southern, White institution (Duke University) and later was named the fourth president of Dillard University (1974-’97).
Below, Dr. Benjamin D. Reese Jr., vice president of the Office for Institutional Equity at Duke University, shares a memory of Cook.
For almost 15 years, I’ve been fortunate to act as the convener of the Samuel DuBois Cook Society at Duke University, an organization formed in 1997 by Myrna Adams and other colleagues, to honor the life and impact at Duke of Dr. Samuel DuBois Cook. I would always take care to clear my schedule the evening before the Annual Samuel DuBois Cook Awards Dinner, in preparation for a private meal with my wife, Sam and [his wife] Sylvia. Mesmerized by Sam’s booming voice and comforted by his warmth and humility. Those were special evenings.
The last couple days have been difficult. These are the occasions when words simply don’t do justice. Sam’s humility, commitment to racial justice and his deep faith in the ‘Beloved Community,’ where all people are respected and treated fairly, will always serve as a model and guidepost for so many of us. Every morning I’m greeted by the photo in my office of Sam Cook and Dr. John Hope Franklin, together … sharing a smile and warm greeting. Sam and Sylvia will always be a part of my life … and that photo will now have very, very special meaning.