Bobby Lee Cook, one of America’s most celebrated lawyers, died peacefully at his mountain home in Cloudland, Georgia, on February 19th, surrounded by family. He was 94.
Bobby Lee was born in Chattoogaville, outside the small northwest Georgia town of Lyerly, on February 12, 1927, where he was raised in a home without running water, helping run the family’s modest grocery store and keep up with the farm chores. From this rural beginning, however, the son of Paul Cook and Alma Edge Cook embarked on a life’s journey that few could have then imagined. He took his first step into the wider world when, as a teenager, he enrolled in Gordon Academy a military school, where he learned the value of personal discipline, duty, and a robust education.
These values were further shaped by World War II. As soon as he graduated from high school, he lied about his age (then only 17) to enlist in the Navy. He first saw the Atlantic Ocean from St. Simons, Georgia on his way to combat in the Pacific. He never forgot that sight, which kindled a lifelong love of the Georgia Coast, and he later would buy homes on Sea Island, Georgia. During Naval training in New Orleans, Cook was also struck by how one would see ships burning off the coast on nearly a nightly basis. He boxed in the Navy, honing his innate fighting spirit which he never lost.
Peacetime brought new transitions that each played key roles in the rest of this life. First, he continued his education: Upon returning from the War, he attended the University of Alabama and Vanderbilt Law School. Second, he found his life partner. Bobby Lee married June Hays on June 8th, 1948, in Summerville, Georgia, a true June wedding that started a sixty-seven-year partnership.
Bobby Lee began his law practice in 1949 in Summerville, Georgia, and that practice from its inception represented his values: personal discipline, erudite temperament, duty to others, justice for all people from all walks of life, and (not the least important characteristic) an indomitable fighting spirit. He represented labor unions when it was unpopular, and moonshiners when it might not have been convenient. As his practice grew, word of his abilities spread, and he developed a reputation as a talented and successful trial lawyer.
While Bobby Lee served in the Georgia Legislature and once ran for Congress, his calling truly was in the courtroom. As time went on, he was called there by many, some of whom paid substantial six and seven figure fees for his skilled advocacy. He represented the Rockefellers, the Carnegies, Robert Vesco, C.H. Butcher, Jr., Mike Thevis, Daniel Paradies, and, for decades, was hired for, or consulted on, nearly every high-profile case in Georgia. His practice went on to transcend Georgia. Among the more than a hundred and fifty acquittals he achieved in murder cases during his career, he won murder trials in Germany and Vietnam, and his career is believed to have inspired the television show Matlock. One of his more colorful cases, in Savannah, is chronicled in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
Among all of these cases, though, perhaps the one he was most proud of was the Matthews murder case. That case embodied his abiding sense that justice should never, ever be denied to anyone from any walk of life. Cook spent over $50,000 of his own money and years of his career to overturn murder convictions wrongfully obtained in Cobb County, Georgia.
He walked with kings but never lost the common touch. Though he was friends with and socialized with Justice Douglas, others on the Court, numerous politicians, dignitaries and business leaders, Cook never forgot his roots. On Saturday mornings, he opened his office doors to local residents for whom he offered his counsel, usually at no charge. Cook was also a tireless and gifted teacher and mentored numerous younger lawyers, spoke at uncounted seminars and was generously giving of his time to others working to solve thorny issues encountered in their own cases. He was a tireless worker and early riser, and often instructed colleagues “Call me tomorrow morning at 7.”
Bobby Lee Cook was recognized with lifetime achievement awards by both the National and Georgia Associations of Criminal Defense Lawyers (GACDL), Georgia State University College of Law School’s 2017 Ben F. Johnson, Jr. Public Service Award, GreenLaw’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the Small Town Lawyer Made Good Award, (presented by the State Bar of Washington), inducted into the American Trial Lawyers Hall of Fame, and many more countless other awards too numerous to list.
Even while these well-deserved honors accumulated, he never lost his razor-sharp wit. His award from GACDL included the honor of having his portrait hung in the Georgia Supreme Court. When presented with this, Cook quipped, “I’d rather be hung in the Supreme Court than by the Supreme Court.” Similarly, while he always appreciated the recognition, Cook never rested on his laurels. He practiced law until virtually the time of his death. He was universally recognized as the dean of criminal defense lawyers in Georgia, and his death is mourned across the country.
Bobby Lee was predeceased by his wife, June, his son Bobby Lee Cook Jr., and his son-in-law Lewis Branch Sutton Connelly and Roger Wheeler Williams. He is survived by his daughters Kristina Cook Graham and Sara Cook Williams; his grandchildren, Sarah Holston O’Reagan, Jessica Wheat Cook Hale, Christopher Sutton Connelly, Jeffrey Scott Connelly, Sarah Elizabeth Connelly Turner, and Anna Lee Williams Jones; great-grandchildren, Patrick Aidan Fell, Morgan Aeron Cook Hale, Lillian Grace Connelly, Fiona Bess Connelly, Branch Hays Connelly, Thomasin June Connelly, Vivian Hays Jones, and Olive Kristina Connelly Turner.
Due to coronavirus concerns and the safety of others, it was Bobby Lee’s wish that his funeral be confined to a private family service. A more fitting memorial service will be held at a later time. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial contributions be sent to the Boys and Girls Club of Chattooga County, P.O. Box 636, Summerville, Ga. 30747, or Georgia State College of Law, Office of Development, P.O. Box 4037, Atlanta, Ga. 30303.
Earle Rainwater Funeral Home in charge of arrangements.
From Hometown: If you read one story about the passing of Bobby Lee Cook, please make it this one. Georgia’s top courts reporter, Bill Rankin, does the Chattooga County legend… justice. Please see below.
Georgia has lost a legal legend.
Bobby Lee Cook, the storied attorney from Chattooga County, passed away this morning, according to multiple reports including the following shared by his family and The Summerville News. Cook was admitted to the Georgia Bar more than 70 years ago, in 1949, and remained one of the most prominant attorneys in the state for decades.
Mr. Cook just marked his 94th birthday on Feb. 12. In addition to a leading law practice, Cook also was active in the community, including service on Darlington’s Board of Visitors (his three children attended Darlington as well as grandchildren).
About the firm (from Mr. Cook’s Linked In profile):
Cook & Connelly was founded in 1959 by Bobby Lee Cook and the late A. Cecil Palmour, and dedicated to providing professional and knowledgeable legal advice for clients throughout Georgia and Tennessee. Our firm is located in Summerville and practices in a wide range of legal areas. We serve a vast range of clientele, including individuals, families, businesses, corporations and municipalities.
Our firm is both unique and extraordinary. We are an experienced team of trial attorneys who have a history of providing clients with quality legal counsel. Our practice has extended over various parts of the country, with much of our focus on the northwestern part of Georgia. We are litigation attorneys who handle the vast majority of matters in the courtroom.
Our firm has the tools, the knowledge and the resources that is commonly found at a large firm, but provides the individual care and attention to detail of a smaller firm. When a client calls our office or comes in to visit, he or she will speak directly with the attorney handling his or her situation.
Whether the issue you are facing involves criminal charges, a family law matter or an injury claim, we are here to provide the guidance you need.In his 60 years of experience, attorney Bobby Lee Cook has tried cases in 37 states. He has represented the Carnegie heirs and members of the Rockefeller family. He has been recognized in many publications and books and has handled a number of cases on the federal level. Additionally, he has lectured at more than 50 colleges across the country. His experience will undoubtedly be an instrumental tool for your legal situation.
Specialties: Associate Attorneys in the firm include: Holley Strawn (family law) Sutton Connelly and Rex Abernathy (civil, criminal, tort, personal injury law).
Areas of Practice
- Civil Practice
- Criminal Law
- Municipal Law
- Georgia, 1949
- U.S. District Court Southern District of Georgia, 1950
- U.S. District Court Middle District of Georgia, 1950
- U.S. District Court Northern District of Georgia, 1950
- U.S. Court of Appeals 5th Circuit, 1955
- U.S. Court of Appeals 2nd Circuit, 1979
- U.S. Court of Appeals 4th Circuit, 1979
- U.S. Court of Appeals 6th Circuit, 1979
- U.S. Court of Appeals 11th Circuit, 1979
- U.S. Supreme Court, 1979
- Vanderbilt University Law School, Nashville, Tennessee
- University of Alabama
- Professor of Criminal Law, National College of Criminal Defense, 1979 to 1980
Professional Associations And Memberships
- Lookout Mountain Bar Association, Member
- American Bar Association, Member
- State Bar of Georgia , Chairperson, Georgia Criminal Justice Committee, 1979 to 1980
- State Bar of Georgia , Criminal Law Advisory Committee, 1979 to 1980
- Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Vice President, 1979 to Present
- Georgia Association of Plaintiffs Attorneys, Member
- The Association of Trial Lawyers of America, Member
- Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, Founding Member
- The Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers, Member
- Texas Trial Lawyers Association, Member
- California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, Member
- Roscoe Pound Foundation, Member