Washington, DC

Paul and Rose, Washington, D.C. - Married 1940

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 slavery.

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 school—the University of the District of Columbiawas formed in 1977 by the union of D.C. Teachers College, Federal City College, and Washington Technical Institute.  Rose was also a full-time teacher, until 1949, when she quit to raise their four children.



Paul:
Well, I have three observations.  But Rose, if you want to go first, go ahead.

Rose:
No, dear, you go ahead.

Paul:
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.  I’d say number two is the children have been very good.  The four children have been very good children.  They’ve done well.  Four have earned six degrees, so you can see that they went on in school.  And I’d say the last thing, we never had any problem with money.  That right?

Rose:
It’s true.

Paul:
Never had a problem with money over all these years.  Those are three factors.  They sound sensible to you?

RF:
Why this person?  Why did you take to each other?

Paul:
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?

Rose:
Yeah, I remember that.  That's pretty funny.


Paul & Rose 2RF:
In 60 years, you've never had a fight?

Rose:
What we gonna fight about?

Paul:
No.  What we gonna fight about?

RF:
Well, that's a first.

Paul:
What are we gonna fight about?  What is there to fight about?

Rose:
I think we’ve had a very nice life.  Now we haven’t fussed… I think we’ve done very well, haven’t we?  I don’t think we could do much more.  We’ve been good friends, we’ve enjoyed each other.  We haven’t gotten mad at each other.

Paul:
I guess because there have been very few reasons for which there’s 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.

Rose:
No.


(Referring to the riots which ravaged their Washington neighborhood in 1970.)
Paul:
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.  You’re welcome.”  I said, “there’s six of us.”  He said, “I don’t care whether there’s six.  We’ll 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 that’s 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?

Rose:
No, why would it be?

Paul:
I was also the headmaster at the Yeshiva.  That was five years later, see?

RF:
You told me the rabbi had called you to help set up an Orthodox school, right?

Paul:
Yes, he did.  Orthodox.  Was that a problem, Rose?

Rose:
No.

Paul:
Fact that we were Catholic, and they were Orthodox Jews, made no difference.

RF:
Is your faith a part of that choice that you’ve made, or is it more just your own upbringing and personal moral code?

Paul:
Maybe neither one.

RF:
Then how do you…

Paul:
It works well.  It’s a good marriage.  Whether there’s any code behind it, or – I don’t know, Rose can answer, but – it worked well.  It’s a good marriage.

RF:
Define a good marriage for me, then.

Paul:
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.

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