Editorial: An inspiring life
Not all civil rights pioneers took part in sit-ins, marched in protests or risked arrest and imprisonment in order to advance the cause. Some of those pioneers accomplished their goals by rolling up their sleeves and going to work each day to pave the way for generations to follow. Eldridge Cook was one such man.
For more than 70 years, until his death earlier this month at the age of 98, Cook quietly built and expanded his seafood empire, using that as a springboard to become a community leader in Gloucester and across the state.
As a young black man in the Jim Crow South, it must have been incredibly hard for him starting out. But he never let that stop him as he turned Cook’s Seafood into a leading East Coast seafood processing plant and Cook himself became a major employer in Gloucester County, providing jobs for approximately 250 people.
He gave back to the community in countless other ways, serving with distinction on the county’s Social Services Board and Planning Commission, and the Virginia Marine Products Board. He was active in the Berea Masonic Lodge, First Morning Star Baptist Church, the Southside Virginia Training School … the list goes on and on.
Cook’s life stands as a monument to the fact that hard work has its rewards and that we all have a duty to serve our community, leaving it better than we found it. Through that hard work, devotion and sacrifice, he made it easier for others to follow in his footprints. Gloucester was a better place for having Eldridge Cook in it. He was both a good man and a great man and he will be missed.
In 2011, in recognition of a lifetime’s worth of service, the Virginia General Assembly approved a joint resolution commending Cook and his good works. It is only fitting that we conclude with words from that document:
“Eldridge Cook, throughout his life, has made many contributions not only to Virginia’s seafood industry, but also to his community and his church, serving as an inspiration to every Virginian, irrespective of race or color.”
We couldn’t agree more.