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Rodney Mims COOK

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(continued from previous column) One of Cook's first votes as a new representative was in support of civil rights activist Julian Bond, one of 8 African Americans also elected in 1965 after Georgia had to reapportion its voting districts. Dozens of representatives challenged Bond's right to his new seat. Reasons stated for their challenge included Bond's "unpatriotic" opposition to the war in Vietnam. The House of Representatives voted 184-12 not to seat Bond as a member, and Rodney Cook was one of only 5 white representatives to vote in support of Julian Bond. At the 1967 legislative session, Bond finally took his seat after his appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court resulted in a unanimous decision in his favor. In 1971, Georgia was the only state in the country where people charged with driving under the influence (DUI) could plead nolo contendere and continue driving without consequences. Cook's research found 20,000 pleas of nolo contendere since mid-1969, and that 50% of all highway fatalities involved drunk drivers. He introduced and pushed legislation eliminating the nolo plea for DUI, and it became law in July 1971. In the 1972 legislative session, the Georgia Safety Council asked for Cook's help on a package of highway safety bills. His primary responsibility was the bill for habitual offenders, the most controversial in the package. It provided major penalties, including automatic license revocation, for habitual offenders with major traffic violations. Four of the highway safety package's 5 bills became law in July 1972 largely due to Cook's efforts. Cook ran for mayor of Atlanta in 1969. The race was hard-fought and close, but he was not successful. In the 1970s, he did not win campaigns for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1972 or Governor of Georgia in 1978, but these races were significant efforts to promote the Republican Party and the 2-party system in Georgia, and laid the foundation for major change in later years. He served as chairman of the Georgia Republican Party in 1977. The Atlanta City Council issued a Proclamation in his honor in December 2011 that recognized Cook's many contributions to the city. The Rodney Mims Cook Papers are housed in one of the special collections in the University of Georgia Libraries, the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies. The Cook collection is divided into six series, including Political, Alderman, and Legislative. After two pivotal decades in the political arena, Cook's focus shifted more to his business. As a longtime agent and Senior Sales Consultant for the Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, he achieved a number of distinctions and awards. He was a life member of the Million Dollar Round Table (the international standard for sales excellence in life insurance and financial services), and a member of the Atlanta Association of Life Underwriters and the National Association of Life Underwriters. His outstanding career with the Guardian included: 45 year-member of the Guardian Leaders Club, president of the Leaders Club Executive Committee and a number of membership positions; 19 years on the Guardian President's Council; 6-time winner of the Centurion Award (for extraordinary sales achievement); and Guardian's National Quality Award. In 1982, Cook became a Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) and expanded his business to include estate planning and employee benefit plans. He was a life member and long-time Executive Committee member of the Atlanta Estate Planning Council; a member of the American Society of Chartered Financial Consultants and the American Society of Pension Actuaries. In 1987 he joined Robert E. Mathis to establish a new Guardian agency in Atlanta that included investment, retirement, and real estate planning, in addition to life insurance. Peachtree Planning Corporation, a firm that began with one office and 11 associates is now a regional leader in financial services with more than 40 offices throughout the Southeast. Each year, Peachtree Planning Corporation presents the Rodney Mims Cook Cup Award (a silver cup) to the account executive who exhibits the highest standard of achievement and excellence in client service. Cook began working part-time in the 1990s to spend more time on the golf course. He played in a number of country club tournaments in Atlanta, South Carolina, and North Carolina, and won the High Hampton Colony Club Championship (open to all ages) in 2005 and 2006 in his early 80s. In addition, he received the "Most Honest Golfer" award at the High Hampton (NC) Invitational. Cook's wide variety of additional interests and memberships included the Atlanta Humane Society (1974-2004) - two terms as President and Executive Committee member for many years; Fulton County Development Authority board member; Civil War Round Table of Atlanta - member and President (1963-1964); member of the Gate City Guard; the Piedmont Driving Club; Boys' High School Alumni Association; charter member of The President's Council, Oglethorpe University; the Gridiron Secret Society, University of Georgia; and a Colonial Williamsburg Burgess. In recent years, he was a key advocate and patron of the Millennium Gate Georgia History Museum, constructed in 2007 and administered by his son, Rodney Mims Cook Jr., at Atlantic Station, a notable example of new urbanism redevelopment on the former site of the Atlantic Steel Mill. Cook also made numerous other philanthropic contributions including the commission of a bust of Justice Lewis Powell for the lobby of Powell's Supreme Court archives at Washington and Lee Law School. He was a patron of the Prince of Wales Monument to the 1996 Olympic Games, the Buckhead/Midtown Gates at Brookwood Station, dedicated to his mother, and the Atlantic Station 5-ton Peace and Justice Gates, which he delivered with a team of horses to their permanent site with Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue. (continued in next column)
Published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Jan. 17, 2013
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