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Black academia and the civil rights community are grieving the loss of Dr. Samuel Dubois Cook, an African-American pioneer in higher education.

The New York Times reports that Cook, who served as Dillard University president from 1974 until his retirement in 1998, died on May 28 at age 88.

Cook was also the first tenure-track Black professor—since Reconstruction—at a Southern White college. Duke University hired him in 1966 as an associate professor of Political Science, at a time when the school was newly integrated.

A native of Griffin, Georgia, Cook is a Morehouse College alumnus. He attributed his leadership style to the influence of Dr. Benjamin Mays, who was president of Morehouse when Cook was a student.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a classmate and friend, also impacted Cook’s life. Both men were 15 years old when they enrolled at Morehouse, as part of an early admission program to bolster enrollment during World War II.

Cook graduated from Morehouse in 1948, earned his doctorate from Ohio State University, and taught at several universities, including Atlanta University, before Duke hired him. His influence on Duke continues through the Samuel Dubois Cook Center on Social Equality.

His achievements include serving as the first Black president of the Southern Political Science Association. President Jimmy Carter also named Cook to the National Council on the Humanities.

He’s survived by his wife, the former Sylvia Fields; their children, Samuel Cook Jr. and Karen J. Cook; and two grandchildren.

SOURCE: New York Times


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