Rockdale: Newsman named to hall of fame has ink in his veins

John William "Bill" Cooke. (Rockdale Reporter photo)
By  | 

ROCKDALE, Texas (KWTX) A Rockdale newspaperman is among three outstanding newspaper industry leaders to be named to the Texas Newspaper Hall of Fame, an honor he spent a lifetime earning.

John William "Bill" Cooke, of Rockdale, Donnis Baggett, executive vice president of the Texas Press Association, and, posthumously. Barney Hubbs (1897-1993), former publisher and radio broadcaster in far west and southwest Texas, all will be enshrined in the TNHOF during an induction ceremony during the Texas Press Association 2019 Convention and Trade Show at Embassy Suites by Hilton at Denton Convention Center on Jan. 25.

Cooke grew up in the back shop of The Rockdale Reporter, the family newspaper his father bought in 1911.

It was the Rockdale Reporter that broke the story about Alcoa Aluminum Company of America, Alcoa, building a smelter near the city that brought 1,500 workers and basically doubled the size of the city.

"Bill" Cooke was a standout student in journalism school at North Texas State College in Denton, now the University of North Texas, where he compiled a "string book" as a sophomore, became the college paper's sports editor as a junior and received the Outstanding Senior Journalism Student Award in 1958.

He married Peggy Sue Adams on Dec. 21, 1957 and the couple, over the 61 years of their marriage, had four children: Kathy Lu Cooke Martin, who died in 2017 and was publisher of The Reporter; Kyle Cooke, of Clear Lake; Ken Esten Cooke, publisher of the Fredericksburg Standard and Radio Post and now co-publisher of The Rockdale Reporter with wife Christine; and Kevin Adams Cooke, an importer of arts and crafts from Mexico, who died in 2008.

Cooke may have been the newsman, but it was Peggy who proofed the pages, he would say she was "the world's greatest proofreader".

Cooke inherited the mantle of news editor in January 1959 during his more than six decades as a newspaper editor and publisher.

He covered general news and sports, and started a grand effort to completely re-design the newspaper and organized and departmentalized the operation.

True modernization came in 1973 when the Reporter switched from hot type and letter production presses to offset, which markedly improved the look of the newspaper.

Cooke is a lifelong member of St. John's United Methodist Church, he has served as president of the Rockdale Chamber of Commerce and served on three industrial foundations and was a member of the Rockdale Rotary Club.