COOK, III, EUGENE AUGUSTUS (1938 ~ 2020) The following is an obituary for Texas Supreme Court Justice Eugene A. Cook III. The biography was provided by the Cook family.
Eugene Augustus Cook, III, Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas, was born on May 2, 1938, in Houston, Texas to Eugene A. Cook, Jr. and Estelle Mary Cook. Justice Cook passed away on August 23rd, 2020 and was laid to rest at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin, Tx on September 2nd, 2020.
He attended Milby High School, where he was a member of the National Honor Society, captain of the debate teams and graduated with honors in 1957. In 2001, he was inducted into the Milby High School Hall of Honor.
After high school, Cook attended the University of Houston, where he was president of the Student Senate, vice president of the Student Body, elected National President of Phi Theta Kappa Scholarship Society, was one of two team members who won the Phi Rho Pi National Championship in Debate, President of the Society of Accountants, President of the Forensic Society, was elected a member of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, Omicron Chi Epsilon Economics Honor Society, and Omicron Delta Kappa Leadership Honor Society, and was selected as one of the ten most Outstanding Students at the University for both his junior and senior years.
He graduated with a major in accounting in 1961. In 1963, Cook enrolled in the University of Houston Law School, where he was chief justice of the University Student Court and an editor on the law review. He received his Doctor of Jurisprudence degree in 1966, and was named the distinguished alumnus of the law school in 1990. Justice Cook was always proud of the quality education that he received at the University Of Houston.
Cook received an LL.M. from the University of Virginia Law School in 1992.
Cook was licensed to practice law in Texas on September 14, 1966, and joined the Houston firm of Butler & Binion. He was elected a partner in 1973. There, he focused on civil litigation and matrimonial law. In 1985, he formed his own firm, Cook, Davis & McFall, where he served as managing partner.
Always active in his profession, Cook, who was board certified as a specialist in civil trial and family law, was the author of numerous articles and was listed in Who's Who in America, Who's Who in American Law, and The Best Lawyers in America. He also taught at his alma mater, the University of Houston, in both the College of Law and the College of Business Administration.
Due to his prominent role in the legal profession, Governor William P. Clements, Jr. appointed Cook to the Supreme Court of Texas on August 19, 1988. He was sworn into office on September 1, and won statewide election on November 8 of that same year.
Justice Cook, who was always proud of being a lawyer, worked his entire career, in both the public and private sectors, to bolster the public's perception of the legal profession. When he became a justice on the Supreme Court, he spearheaded the creation of a Committee on Professionalism. With Justice Cook serving as chair, the committee drafted a statewide code of professionalism. On November 7, l989, both the Texas Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeals promulgated and adopted THE TEXAS LAWYER’S CREED – A MANDATE FOR PROFESSIONALISM. Justice Cook was the principal architect. Chief Justice Ann McClure of the 8th Court of Appeals in Texas has called Justice Cook the “Father of Professionalism” in Texas. When adopted by the Supreme Court and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Texas became the first state in the nation to adopt a creed to govern the conduct of its lawyers. The courts were quick to embrace it. “Neither justice nor our fellow man is served until the principles stated in this creed become the moral fabric that all lawyers wear throughout their personal and professional lives.” Warrilow v. Norrell, 791 S. W. 2d 515, 531 n.3 (Tex,App.-Corpus Christi 1989, writ denied) (Nye.J. concurring).
Former Texas Supreme Court Justice and then Dean of Baylor Law School, Charles W. Barrow said of Justice Cook “…through the leadership of Justice Cook, more has been done in the field of judicial ethics and professional responsibility in the last two years in Texas than the last twenty.”
Professor Sherman L. Cohn, President of the American Inns of Court, declared: “Justice Cook’s record on the bench and stature in the community reflect a man who practices the ideals of the American Inns of Court. Through his efforts and example, Justice Cook has actively fostered professionalism and ethics, and provided a model for every member of the legal community to emulate.
Another point of interest for Justice Cook was ensuring that lawyers had access to further their educations. Cook served as chair of the Continuing Legal Education Committees for both the Houston Bar Association and the State Bar of Texas and has spoken to more than 150 Continuing Legal Education Programs. Once appointed to the Court, he turned his attention to judicial education as well. He served as chair of the Judicial Education Executive Committee. Cook was the 2010 recipient of the Gene Cavin Award for Excellence in Continuing Legal Education, the highest award given in the Continuing Legal Education area by the State Bar of Texas. He was a charter member of the College of the State Bar of Texas where he was active for 27 years. He was a member of the American Law Institute.
After serving four years on the Supreme Court, from 1988 through 1992, Cook returned to Houston, where he joined the firm of Bracewell & Giuliani, served as a senior partner and headed the firm's appellate group until his retirement on January 1, 2002.
Throughout his nearly 36 years in the legal profession, Justice Cook served in a leadership capacity in numerous legal organizations. Most notably, he was President of the Houston Bar Association from 1989 to 1990 where he also served as Chair of the Family Law Section, Chair of the Consumer Law Section, Chair of the Special Olympics Committee and Chair of the Professionalism Committee. At the State Bar of Texas, he was Chair of the Litigation Section (2 terms), Chair of the Consumer Law Section and Chair of the Grievance Committee. In the American Inns of Court, he served as First President of The Robert W. Calvert Inn in Austin and Counselor of the A. A. White Inn in Houston. He was Chair of the Committee on Professionalism of the American College of Trial Lawyers. He was a fellow in the American, Texas and Houston Bar Foundations and The American College of Trial Lawyers and the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.
Throughout his distinguished career, Justice Cook has been honored by many of the organizations that he served diligently. The State Bar of Texas awarded him with the 1989 President's Award for being the Most Outstanding Attorney in the State. He also is the recipient of three Certificates of Merit, a Presidential Citation, and an award for Dedication in Improving the Legal Profession.
With respect to his work regarding ethics and professionalism, the American Inns of Court selected him in 1992 as the National Recipient of the Lewis F. Powell, Jr. Award for exemplary service to the legal profession throughout the United States in the areas of legal excellence, professionalism, civility and ethics. He received the Lola Wright Award for Outstanding Public Service in Advancing Legal Ethics in 1990 from the Texas Bar Foundation. He received the Distinguished Professionalism Award in 1990 from the Texas Center for Legal Ethics and Professionalism.
The Houston Bar Association presented him with the President's Award twice, the Outstanding Service Award, the Chairman of the Year Award and the Officer's Special Award. In 1992 the Texas Public Policy Foundation awarded him with the Supreme Court of Texas Justice of the Year Award.
He was the former National Chair of the Board of Directors of Phi Theta Kappa Scholarship Society for six terms. He was actively involved with Phi Theta Kappa for over thirty years and was recipient of the Most Distinguished Alumnus in the Nation Award.
It is the mission of Special Olympics Texas to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Volunteers are the lifeline of the program. He was deeply committed to Special Olympics Texas that has sports for 40,000 athletics. Justice Cook always felt he received so much more from his participation than he was ever able to give. He served as Chair of the Board of Directors, Special Olympics Texas in 1994 and served as a volunteer for over 29 years.
Cook was former Vice-Chair of the Houston YMCA Camp Cullen Board of Directors.
He was a life member of the lineage groups, the Sons of the American Revolution, where he served as President of the Independence Chapter in 2004, and the Sons of the Republic of Texas.
On November 12, 2011 Justice Cook received the prestigious George Washington Medal Award. This is the highest award given by the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge National Awards Program. Justice Cook joined the historically prestigious group of past George Washington Medal recipients including Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Walt Disney and John Wayne. The notification stated “Your lifetime work - of helping others by going above and beyond exemplified the essence of the National Awards by promoting an understanding and appreciation for our country’s heritage and unique freedoms.” Through a selection process based on quality and content, recipients are chosen to become part of a historically prestigious group of American citizens that advance the American ideal.
In his speech he said “Some of us claim to be self-made individuals; we claim to have done it ourselves. I do not believe this. We all have had help. Because of this we have a duty to pass this on to others. It is true that we can’t, standing alone, change the world. We can however make the world a better place. Success doesn’t mean having the largest home or fanciest automobile. Success is measured by many intangible facets of our lives. Learn to laugh often,
earn the respect of others, and find beauty in a bluebird or cardinal sitting in a tree. If the path for one human being has been made easier, then you are a success.”
In 2018 Justice Eugene A. Cook was honored with the inaugural Professionalism Award to its namesake, the former Texas Supreme Court Justice and former president of the Houston Bar Association, Justice Eugene A. Cook.
“He truly appreciated that going forward, the award will honor those who work diligently to uphold the standards he lived by and encouraged all attorneys to follow”.
The award was established by the HBA Board of Directors to recognize a lawyer or judge who exemplifies the highest level of legal ethics and a lifetime of professionalism. “In 1989 Justice Eugene Cook proposed that the Texas Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeals adopt a joint statement encouraging lawyer civility. He was the architect of the Texas Lawyers Creed, making Texas the first state to adopt a mandate to govern the conduct of all of its lawyers,” said Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht, who accepted the award on his behalf. “The words were his, thoughtful and from the heart: A lawyer should always adhere to the highest principles of professionalism.”
A focus on ethics and professionalism was the hallmark of Justice Cooks administration as president of the HBA, 1989-1990.
“Justice Cook was always proud to be a lawyer and worked his entire career to bolster the public’s perception of the legal profession,” said Texas Supreme Court Justice Jeff Brown. “For all of his work, Justice Cook is often called the “father of professionalism’ in Texas.”
Justice Cook married Sondra Attaway in 1968, and they had two children, a daughter, Laurie Ann, and a son, Gene. Justice Cook and his wife were residents of Richmond, Texas. His love of God and family were his greatest sources of happiness.
Further information is available through the Texas State Cemetery research department.