Founding Father

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 15, 2004

(John Essex High School – Class of 1975)

To the fatherless boys you became a father, An inspiration to us when the world said, “Why bother?”

To a community far from the knowledge of the world, you became our diamond because you treated us like pearls.

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You disciplined us with a rod the world now frowns upon, but because of that discipline, we had the strength to carry on.

So when the statues of the great ones stand erect and stake their claim,

I know you will be there teaching them the way to play the game

John Essex remembers its beloved coach

By Clay McCombs / Sports Editor

That’s the way they saw him, as a father. But when they called on him, all they had to say was, “Hey Coach.” But Ronald E. Cook was more than just a coach with a whistle. He was all that is John Essex High School athletics.

“Mr. Cook was and will always be, the man behind the sports movement at John Essex,” John Essex (Class of 1974) graduate Mitchell Congress said. “Without him there would not have been a sports program at John Essex.”

Cook was John Essex athletics. Coaching was his passion in life and the kids he coached were that passion’s heartbeat.

“Mr. Cook was, “The Coach,” at John Essex High School,” John Essex librarian (1966-1999), Betty Smith said. “For 34 years he was the only coach at the school. He loved coaching, he loved his players, he was their father and they were his children.”

Educated in Sumter County and Jefferson County schools, and being a college graduate from Alabama State Universtiy, Cook understood the value of a education and made sure to impress it upon his players.

“Mr. Cook didn’t just teach his players how to play the game, he made sure to also teach the academics of the game as well,” Congress said. “He made sure his players knew every aspect of the sport, its history, its terminology, its art and its science.”

His hard work and dedication to the school and its students was hard to ignore. After teaching his normal six classes a day, Cook became the school’s bus driver, personally driving every John Essex student home. In his thirty-four years at the school, Cook had done it all, and all had noticed.

“Mr. Cook was the backbone of the school,” Smith said. “He touched so many lives and was such an influential part of the John Essex family of students, teachers and parents. He will be missed greatly.”

“I don’t think there will ever come a time when I will ever be able to sit in the bleachers at Cook Field to watch a game and not think of coach Cook and what he means to me and this school,” Congress said. “I will forever regard him as the father of John Essex athletics.”

Cook’s name may never appear in any sports hall of fame, but to many of the fatherless boys that have fought along side him on the grassy gridiron fields, sweated with him on the courts and ran with him on the tracks, Ronald E. Cook will be remembered.