I visited with Dr. Paul
Cooke and his wife, Rose, in their house in Northwest Washington, D.C.,
where Paul has lived since 1928. I was acquainted with them through
my father, whose civil rights involvement had brought him together with
Paul and the American Veterans Committee. Paul has travelled the world
for the World Veterans Federation (WVF) despite severe visual impairment.
Born in Harlem, the son of a Navy machinist, Paul notes that his ancestors
were manumitted from slavery in 1826 in Washington, D.C. Rose's
family goes back 4-5 generations in West Virginia, with no record of any
An eminent Washingtonian,
Paul Philips Cooke holds two Masters' degrees, plus an ED.D. and an honorary
LL.D. degree. His long career as an educator was capped by his serving
(from 1966-1974) as President of the District of Columbia Teachers College,
which was formed in 1955 by the merger of Miners Teachers College (a black
institution) with Wilson Teachers College (a white institution). The successor
of the District of Columbiawas
in 1977 by
the union of D.C. Teachers College, Federal City College, and Washington
Rose was also a full-time teacher, until 1949, when she quit to raise
their four children.
Well, I have three observations.
But Rose, if you want to go first, go ahead.
No, dear, you go ahead.
Number one - I always,
for 60 years, always enjoyed being with Rose Clifford Cooke. It
was always good to be with Rose, all these sixty years. Id
say number two is the children have been very good. The four children
have been very good children. Theyve done well. Four
have earned six degrees, so you can see that they went on in school.
And Id say the last thing, we never had any problem with money.
Never had a problem with
money over all these years. Those are three factors. They
sound sensible to you?
Why this person?
Why did you take to each other?
This was a good-looking
woman, for one thing. And a fine family, for another. A college
student, for a third. And all of that. Now what she chose,
I'm not sure.
We were married in Hagerstown
in August of 1940 and - interesting enough, when we got the license...
(Rose chuckles.) the clerk said, "you
all white folks?" And I said, "no, we're not white folks.
We're colored folks." (They laugh.)
He says, "oh," and wrote down something else, and then we went
on into the church. (To Rose.) You remember
my telling you that?
Yeah, I remember that.
That's pretty funny.
In 60 years, you've
never had a fight?
What we gonna fight about?
No. What we gonna
Well, that's a first.
What are we gonna fight
about? What is there to fight about?
I think weve had
a very nice life. Now we havent fussed
I think weve
done very well, havent we? I dont think we could do
much more. Weve been good friends, weve enjoyed each
other. We havent gotten mad at each other.
I guess because there
have been very few reasons for which theres rage or anger.
Like lack of money, maybe; poor children, doing poorly; disagreeing on
where they ought to go to school. None of those came up.
(Referring to the
riots which ravaged their Washington neighborhood in 1970.)
The fire was right up
here at 14th Street, you see. Each of the children had his or her
bag packed. And we had our bags packed. All in the front yard.
Ready to go. And the invitation - phone call - to us came from the
head of the Anti-Defamation League of this city. Saying, look.
You come and stay with us. Youre welcome. I said,
theres six of us. He said, I dont
care whether theres six. Well put up all six of you.
He lived out in Silver Spring. And he was serious. It was
a real invitation. I had worked with the Anti-Defamation League
for years in my Howard University summer graduate school work. It
was part of my extra work, you see? And always one of my team mates
had always been from the ADL. Beginning in 1954. Right on
through 1965, every summer - so thats 12 summers. You see,
he knew that I was teaching at the Hebrew Academy of the District of Columbia.
You never thought that was any problem, did you, Rose?
No, why would it be?
I was also the headmaster
at the Yeshiva. That was five years later, see?
You told me the rabbi
had called you to help set up an Orthodox school, right?
Yes, he did. Orthodox.
Was that a problem, Rose?
Fact that we were Catholic,
and they were Orthodox Jews, made no difference.
Is your faith a part
of that choice that youve made, or is it more just your own upbringing
and personal moral code?
Maybe neither one.
Then how do you
It works well. Its
a good marriage. Whether theres any code behind it, or
I dont know, Rose can answer, but it worked
well. Its a good marriage.
Define a good marriage
for me, then.
Well, the same thing I
said in the beginning. We like to be with each other all the time,
which we have; we had no money problems; we had no children problems.
Which makes for an easy marriage.