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Historian discusses John Warren Cooke and massive resistance

Fred Lyon of Port Haywood, a retired attorney and historian whose research focuses on civil rights in Virginia, massive resistance, and Brown v. Board of Education, gave a talk last Thursday at Mathews Memorial Library. His topic was “John Warren Cooke, a Publisher and Politician Responds to Brown v. Board of Education.”

Cooke was a lifelong Mathews County resident who served in the Virginia House of Delegates for 38 years, from 1942 to 1980, including the last 12 as Speaker. Publisher of the Gazette-Journal, he died in 2009 at the age of 94.

Lyon opened with a humorous comment about Cooke “staring at me (a painting of Cooke hangs on the wall opposite the speaker’s podium) in a room dedicated to him, with his daughter (Gazette-Journal publisher Elsa Cooke Verbyla) sitting over there.”

Lyon said that Cooke “was arguably the most distinguished citizen this county has ever produced” and that the 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education “was arguably the most important decision...

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