Mr. Bobby Lee Cook. Cook, an attorney at Cook & Connelly in Summerville, Georgia, is one of the most renowned and respected trial attorneys in the Southeast, and he is turning 93 today. Since he began practicing in 1949, Cook has tried thousands of civil and criminal cases, including more than 300 murder cases, across the country in 37 states and throughout the world, in countries such as Vietnam, Germany and England. Mr. Cook is one of the nation’s most famed trial lawyers and has been well-acquainted with five presidents.
Mr. Cook was a featured speaker at an event hosted by the Chattooga Historical Society on July 10, 2016 and much of this article comes from a previous article written about this event.
Mr. Cook was asked to recall a few of his memorable trails, to which he made clear, “all trails are important, outcomes affect the lives of the rich and poor alike.”
The first case he tried, as a court appointed lawyer and therefore made little to no money, was a murder which had taken place in Chattoogaville.
Some of Cook’s more publicized cases include his 1996 defense of Tennessee banker C.H. Butcher, Jr. and his 1979 Rockefeller-Carnegie case over Coastal Georgia land which had been seized by the federal government at an unfair price. Another memorable case was the defense of Savannah socalite Jim Williams of the Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil fame. A more recent case in which Cook takes pride in was Plymel vs. Teacher’s Retirement System of Georgia, on behalf of retired educators who had been shorted benefits in their pension plans.
Cook was born in Chattoogaville at his family’s home on February 12, 1927. Cook is the son of the late Paul and Alma Edge Cook and remembers growing up in the Chattoogaville area, “My father farmed and raised Black Angus cattle and ran a general store, so there was always plenty to eat. He sold anything anybody needed in those days. My parents were hard-working people. During the Depression my mother worked at the Trion Glove Mill. We did not go to town often because there was no particular need to go.”
When asked about those who inspired his life and career, Cook immediately cited the late Judge Clovis Rivers (1867-1953). “Judge Rivers was the City Court Judge in Summerville. He was a Latin and Greek scholar. He had no interest in making money. He was passionate about the law, and was a true humanist. He was a talented artist with a face like Moses, all who knew him loved him.”
Cook began school at the age of five at Lyerly Elementary School. He attended Lyerly School until his junior year in high school when he transferred to Gordon Military College, where he would later graduate from in 1942. Cook hop, skipped and jumped around colleges starting at the University of Georgia, then Vanderbilt University before joining the Navy where he served as a medical corpsman for two years.The two years ended Cook’s desire to be a physician and lead him to concentrate on becoming a lawyer.
As a United States Navy Lieutenant, Cook served from 1944-1946. He received his basic training in Bainbridge, Maryland and afterwards was sent to the Pacific theater where he served as a Gunner on the Destroyer, USS Bannon. He received many medals and awards for his service to our country.
Cook passed the Georgia Bar Exam in 1949 and immediately opened his practice in Summerville. It is a noteworthy fact to mention that Cook never actually completed his law degree from Vanderbilt but passed the Bar Exam on his first attempt. His first law office was located upstairs over McGinnis Drug Co. and Cook still recalls the $500 he had to borrow from the bank to purchase the office. Cook recalled once a big shot lawyer in New York inquired as to why he practiced in Summerville. Cook reminded him that, in Summerville, he read the same books that were read in New York City.
“I came back to live in Chattooga County just because i wanted to. i had the impression that I could be just as fine a lawyer in Chattooga County as I could in Washington or New York. I continue to believe that. This is the best place to live I have ever known. There is no better place to raise a family.”
Lawyers often tend to try their hand at politics and Bobby Lee was no exception. He served as a member of the Georgia House of Representatives during the 1949-1950 term, and as a member of the State Senate during the 1957-1958 term. He also served one term as judge of the State Court of Chattooga County from 1961-1964.
The TV series Matlock is loosely based on many of Bobby Lee Cook’s cases. Although Bobby Lee commented that he has never received any payment from the series, and had never asked for any either.