Not everyone receives a phone call from Vice President Joe Biden every year on his birthday.
Then again, former U.S. Sen. Marlow Cook, who served from 1968 to 1974, wasn’t like everyone else.
“They came in as two young senators around the same time and got to know each other very well even though they were across the aisle from each other,” David Beliles, a longtime friend of Cook’s, said. “That’s the kind of man Marlow was.”
Cook, 89, a Plymouth Harbor resident, died Feb. 4.
Cook was born July 27, 1926, in Akron, N.Y., where he developed his love of politics from his grandfather. He joined the U.S. Army and served in World War II. He was living in New London, Conn. when he met his wife, Nancy, in 1945.
“During the war, there was gasoline rationing, and the habit in the area of Louisville, where we were both from, was to stop and offer someone a ride if they were waiting for the bus,” Nancy Cook said. “My mother stopped to pick up a lady whom she didn’t know. It was Marlow’s mother. They were talking about their children and found out we both were in New London.”
Cook called his future wife, and the two decided to meet. They married in 1947.
After the war, he enrolled at the University of Louisville, where he obtained his bachelor’s and law degrees and practiced law in Louisville, Ky.
Cook was approached about running for office and in 1957 was elected as a moderate republican to the Kentucky House of Representatives. He served two terms and was then elected as a Jefferson County judge in 1961 and 1965.
“His favorite political position was as judge,” Nancy Cook said. “He totally enjoyed that position because he could see his accomplishments as far as improving things within the county.”
Cook became immensely popular in Louisville during his tenure as judge and made some lasting changes.
“In the '60s, the Democratic Party, my own party, had some racist tendencies in Kentucky, but Marlow Cook, as a Republican elected official, made significant improvements on civil rights issues,” Beliles said. “He really took strong steps to really eradicate racism. I really admired him for that.”
In 1968, Cook ran for U.S. Senate, narrowly defeating Commerce Commissioner Katherine Peden. He became Kentucky’s first Roman Catholic to hold a statewide office.
“He was a very conscientious public official and a great senator,” Beliles said. “He got to know a lot of people, and everyone liked him.”
Current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell served as an aide to Cook from 1968 to 1970, and current U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth was his aide in the 1970s.
In 1974, Cook was the second member of Congress to suggest the resignation of President Richard Nixon after the Watergate scandal.
Cook lost his bid for re-election to Kentucky Gov. Wendell Ford in 1974.
He practiced law in Washington, D.C. until he and his wife moved to Sarasota in 1989.
Outside of politics, Cook enjoyed golf and tennis, but his favorite hobby was reading.
“He was addicted to reading newspapers, books, articles, anything that was meaty he liked,” Nancy Cook said. “He read three newspapers a day for most of his life.”
Cook is survived by his wife, Nancy; his children, Caroline, Nancy, Louise and Marlow Jr.; eight grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
Cook’s family will hold a private service.
“We had a lovely life together,” Nancy Cook said. “No regrets whatsoever. All of it was good.”