W. H. COOKE, president and cashier of the Citizens Bank at Clarendon, has been identified with this town and with Donley county ever since their organization, and his prominence as a business factor and as a public-spirited citizen has done no little for the cause of progress and advancement along all lines of activity. He is essentially a business man, has made the management of commercial and financial affairs the principal occupation of his life and the line in which he has won his principal success, and having lived in Texas since he was twenty-one years old he is a typical man of affairs and a representative of the progressive element which has done most for the welfare of Northwest Texas.
Mr. Cooke was born in Athens, McMinn county, Tennessee, February 14, 1855. His father, Judge J. B. Cooke, a native of North Carolina, but who was reared in east Tennessee, studied law and became a leading attorney at Athens before the war, representing McMinn county in the state legislature. He was colonel of the Fifty-ninth Tennessee Regiment of the Confederate army, and was a loyal and devoted son of the south throughout the war. After the war he removed with his family to Chattanooga, where he became a member of the law firm of Van Dyke, Cooke and Van Dyke, and was elected and served as one of the judges of the supreme court of Tennessee. His death occurred at Chattanooga, in 1899, when he was eighty years old. His wife, Penelope (McDermott) Cooke, was the daughter of a prominent planter of Monroe county, Tennessee, and she died at Chattanooga in 1875.
Mr. Cooke’s early boyhood days were spent during the war period, on Tellico plantation, his mother’s old home in Monroe county, and, after the war, at Chattanooga. His educational advantages were ample, three years being spent in study at East Tennessee University in Knoxville. In 1876, when he was an ambitious young man of twenty-one, he came to Texas and became a clerk in the employ of C. D. Cates, a merchant of Decatur, Wise county. Decatur was the home of T. Waggoner, the millionaire cattleman, who soon offered the energetic young clerk a job on one of his ranches, and the latter, after working and showing his mettle in the capacity of cowboy, became one of Mr. Waggoner’s foremen, and continued in the great cattleman’s employ for several years, mostly on the ranch in Wichita and Wilbarger counties. In 1887 Mr. Cooke came to Clarendon, in which year the town had its inception, and he has been one of its leading citizens ever since. For the first two years he was bookkeeper and cashier for the Wood-Dickson Mercantile and Banking Company, but in 1889 he helped organize and became cashier of the Bank of Clarendon, of which Colonel Charles Goodnight, the noted cattleman, was president. He remained with that institution until 1892, when he was elected county and district clerk of Donley county, and he filled this office for eight consecutive years, being elected four times. In 1899 he and his associates organized the Citizens Bank, with E. A. Kelly, of Leavenworth, Kansas, as president, and Mr. Cooke became cashier. When Mr. Kelly retired from the presidency Mr. Cooke assumed the positions of both president and cashier, and is at the present time manager of this bank, which is a flourishing financial institution, and enjoys an especially large patronage among the cattlemen and other large interests of this section.
During his boyhood and while still at home Mr. Cooke took much interest in the study of law, and did considerable reading in his father’s office. And while county and district clerk he attained added familiarity with legal business, both through reading and his associations in the district court, and in August, 1900, he passed the necessary examinations and was admitted to the bar by Judge H. H. Wallace. He has had no intention of engaging in active practice, but has found his legal knowledge and skill of great value to him in his own business.
Mr. Cooke is a member of the Presbyterian church, and affiliates with the Masons and the Knights of Pythias, he also takes great interest in the welfare of the United Confederate Veterans, and in 1905 was appointed an aide de camp on the staff of the Fifth Brigade, United Confederate Veterans, by B. B. Paddock, general commanding. He was married in 1886 at Harrold, Texas, to Miss Hallie Moore, who was born in Kentucky. They have lost by death a little daughter, Hallie, and their seven living children are: W. H. Cooke, Jr., Thomas B., Julia Penelope, Frances Melissa, Mary Swaney, Eugene Allen and Helen.
Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. I, pp. 663-664.