WILLIS C. COOK
The Quakers of old Pennsylvania were noted for their silence, particularly so in their mode of
worship, where not a sound was heard, and each penitent prayed silently for himself. They had a verse which they
used to teach to their children. It ran as follows:
|"A wise old owl sat on an oak;
The more he saw, the less he spoke;
The less he spoke, the more he heard;
Let us mimic that wise old bird."
The owl in this case happened to be W. C. Cook of Sioux Falls. Here is one of the most silent
"wise old birds" that ever sat at the throttle of the political engine of the republican party in South Dakota.
You can go riding with Mr. Cook, talk to him all day, enjoy yourself in his company, come back
at night, reflect upon your conversation, and then ask yourself, "Really, what did he tell me?" He's the driest
well that a political pump was ever thrust into. You can "pump" him until your vocal valves are worn out, only
to find that you have been sucking wind, and that not one ounce of refreshing information has come to the service.
Some one says, "Oh! well, there is nothing in him to pump." Not on your life! We dont' know what
Mr. Cook's religious beliefs are, but certain it is he has great faith in that pious passage, "A wise man keepeth
his own counsels."
Mr. Cook was born in Gratiot, Lafayette county, Wisconsin, October 5, 1874 and comes of
Revolutionary stock. Somehow in these articles we certainly do unearth a lot of Wisconsites. May we digress
to say no wonder we feel so much at home in South Dakota, after having married a Wisconsin girl.
At an early age Mr. Cook got it into his head to fit himself for a lawyer. At twenty-one he
walked out of the Law School of Wisconsin University, the proud possessor of a piece of sheepskin that told the story completethe hours of sacrifice and patient toil.
In 1899 he removed to South Dakota, and the next year he was elected Judge of Aurora county.
In 1904 this same county sent him to the state senate, and two years later it returned him.
Mr. Cook is a reformer clear through to the backbone. One of his pet reforms is the direct
election of United States senators by the people themselves. Once in the state legislature, he lost no time in
getting busy along the lines of his own thought. The first thing he did was to introduce a joint resolution
memorializing congress to call a constitutional convention to propose an amendment to our federal constitution
for the election of United States senators by direct vote.
He is also the author of the 1907 statute which prohibits corporations from contributing to
candidates or to political committees. We'll wager that the corporations are glad and that on a number of
occasions Cook, as chairman of the state central committee, has been just a trifle sorry.
WILLIS C. COOK
At the time Mr. Cook was a candidate in 1906 for re-election to the State Senate from Aurora
County, the reform forces captured the Republican State Convention and he was chosen chairman of the Republican
State Central Committee.
So successfully did he conduct the campaign of that year and so well did he get the warring
factions of his party to pulling together, that he was an easy successor to himself in 1908 and again in 1910.
In 1907 Mr. Cook purchased a half interest in the "Sioux Falls Daily Press." and became identified
in newspaper work with Mr. Dotson. In 1910, Cook sold his interests in the paper to Dotson. While identified with
the Press he "hammered" the Argus-Leader plenty; but those days have passed, and new battles to be fought are
still before us.
Mr. Cook is a very likeable fellow. His close-mouthed disposition, his political foresight, his
inherent honesty, his fidelity and his shrewdnessall combine to fit him preeminently for a political
organizer and campaign manager; and we predict that he will always play the game fair, and that the future will
hear still more of him than has the past.
(Later.Since the above article was first published, President Taft has appointed Mr. Cook
Internal Revenue Collector for the two Dakotas, at a salary of $4,000 per year. It pays to "play the game."O. W. C.)