FREDERICK DOUGLAS COOKE, JR., ESQ.

Oral History Project
The Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit

Oral History Project United States Courts The Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit

District of Columbia Circuit

FREDERICK DOUGLAS COOKE, JR., ESQ.

Interviews conducted by: Bart Kempf, Esq.
May 21 and August 30, 2007 July 2, 2009

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Preface. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. i Oral History Agreements

Frederick Douglas Cooke Jr., Esquire ……………………………………………………………. iii Bart Kempf, Esquire ………………………………………………………………………………………v

Oral History Transcripts of Interviews

May 21, 2007 ………………………………………………………………………………………………..1 August 30, 2007 …………………………………………………………………………………………115 July 2, 2009……………………………………………………………………………………………….206

Index …………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. A-1 Table of Cases and Statutes …………………………………………………………………………………B-1 Biographical Sketches

Frederick Douglas Cooke Jr., Esquire ………………………………………………………..C-1 Bart Kempf, Esquire ………………………………………………………………………………..C-3

NOTE

The following pages record interviews conducted on the dates indicated. The interviews were recorded digitally or on cassette tape, and the interviewee and the interviewer have been afforded an opportunity to review and edit the transcript.

The contents hereof and all literary rights pertaining hereto are governed by, and are subject to, the Oral History Agreements included herewith.

© 2019 Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit. All rights reserved.

Schedule A

Tapes recordings, digital recordings, transcripts, computer diskettes and CDs resulting from three interviews of Frederick Cooke conducted on the following dates:

Interview No. and Date

No. 1, May 21, 2007 No. 2, August 30, 2007 No. 3, July 2, 2009

Number of Tapes or CDs

}
}All on one CD }

Pages of Final Transcript

1-114 115-205 206- 243

The transcripts of the three interviews are on one CD.

iv

Schedule A

Tapes recordings, digital recordings, transcripts, computer diskettes and CDs resulting from three interviews of Frederick Cooke conducted on the following dates:

Interview No. and Date

No. 1, May 21, 2007 No. 2, August 30, 2007 No. 3, July 2, 2009

Number of Tapes or CDs

}
}All on one CD }

Pages of Final Transcript

1-114 115-205 206- 243

The transcripts of the three interviews are on one CD.

iv

PREFACE

The goal of the Oral History Project of the Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit is to preserve the recollections of the judges of the Courts of the District of Columbia Circuit and lawyers, court staff, and others who played important roles in the history of the Circuit. The Project began in 1991. Oral history interviews are conducted by volunteer attorneys who are trained by the Society. Before donating the oral history to the Society, both the subject of the history and the interviewer have had an opportunity to review and edit the transcripts.

Indexed transcripts of the oral histories and related documents are available in the Judges’ Library in the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse, 333 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C., the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress, and the library of the Historical Society of the District of Columbia

With the permission of the person being interviewed, oral histories are also available on the Internet through the Society’s Web site, www.dcchs.org. Audio recordings of most interviews, as well as electronic versions of the transcripts, are in the custody of the Society.

i

ORAL HISTORY OF FREDERICK DOUGLAS COOKE JR. First Interview
May 21, 2007

This interview is being conducted on behalf of the Oral History Project of the District of Columbia Circuit. The interviewee is Frederick Douglas Cooke Jr. and the interviewer Bart Kempf. The interview took place on May 21, 2007.

TAPE #1

Mr. Kempf:

Mr. Cooke:

Mr. Kempf:

Mr. Cooke:

Today is Monday, May 21st, 2007, this is an oral history with Frederick Douglas Cooke, Jr. We are at 1155 Connecticut Ave., NW, Washington, DC at the law offices of Rubin, Winston, Diercks, Harris and Cooke, LLP. Fred, would you please state your full name, date, and place of birth.

Sure. My name is Frederick Douglas Cooke, Jr. I was born on May 26th, 1947 in the District of Columbia.
If you could start talking a little bit about your background. It might be good to start with maybe your grandparents, great grandparents and some of your ancestors, and tell us what you know about them.

Sure. I really don’t know much about my great grandparents on either my mother or my father’s side. I know my mother and father were both from the same small town in North Carolina called Franklinton, North Carolina, which is curiously enough also the home of Soupy Sales the former TV personality and comedian. But, in any event, they’re from this little town called Franklinton, North Carolina. I remember when I was a kid the population must have been about 1400 or something like that. My mother’s family was basically the Ellis and Bell family. Her father’s name was Hayward and her mother’s name was Hattie. They lived in this town and were farmers. They had 11 children, 7 daughters and 4 sons. My

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mother was the youngest of the daughters and her name was Annie Leon (for reasons nobody could ever explain and she couldn’t either). But, they were farmer people and lived in rural, segregated North Carolina. My dad’s family was also from that same little town or outside of it — wasn’t much of a town so it was hard to know if you were inside or outside of it. My father’s family were Cookes and Perrys. My dad’s father’s name was Herbert and his wife, my grandmother’s name was Elnore, not Eleanor but Elnore. My dad was one of 5 children. He had 3 brothers and a sister. They all lived there and they were farmers too. Neither my dad nor my mother ever actually finished high school. They went to school in the segregated South, worked on the farms. My dad was born in 1923. My dad, by the time World War II came along, got drafted before he finished high school and actually never afterwards finished high school. My dad, by all accounts, and his father were crazy hard-working guys, did all kinds of jobs as a youth and my grandfather as an adult and older guy. He had all kinds of odd jobs and other jobs to make money to support themselves. My dad, who was the oldest of his brothers and sisters, had the reputation of being sort of a mirror image of his father and he just worked all these jobs and worked all these places, he was a real hustler. When he went into the Army, he was in the Army for almost 4 years and when he was discharged he was discharged here in Washington DC for a reason that he never fully explained to me. But, he told me that he didn’t want to go back to North Carolina and work on a farm is what it really came down to. He didn’t really want to do that and he had been here on the way to Europe and he

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Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke:

decided he wanted to come here and work. There were jobs he thought he could get here.
Do you know what his first job was here. Or, some of the things he did early on? Well, some of the things he did early on when he first came here, he worked. My dad had been a shoe repairman in the Army. It was weird. He was with the Quartermaster Corps. And, he repaired shoes. He got a job here repairing shoes when he got out of the Army. But, then he got a job pretty quickly after that working for the Navy Department in their mailroom as a mail clerk. And, he had that job for 40 odd years. That was really how he supported himself and his family. My mom came here after he got out of the Army.

Did she stay in North Carolina during the War?
She stayed in North Carolina during the War. They weren’t married but they were boyfriend/girlfriend, I guess.
Do you have any of their letters?
No. I have pictures of them when they were young people, early 20’s. But, I don’t have any letters. My dad actually finished the 10th or 11th grade, my mom left school before that in the 8th or 9th grade and that was mostly because they had to work and the fact that the schools weren’t very significant. Some of her brothers and sisters finished high school but she happened not to. My grandfather died when I was very, very young. All I really remember is his funeral. My grandmother lived a little bit longer and I also remember her funeral. I remember interacting with her as a kind of grandmother person. I don’t remember interacting at all with my mother’s father. I think I was like 3 when he died. I just

Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke:

Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke:

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Mr. Kempf:

Mr. Cooke: Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke:

Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke:

don’t remember much about him except for the funeral thing. But, my grandmother was around when I was 7, 8, 9, 10 years old or something like that or until then rather. And, I remember my father’s mother and father lived a lot longer and I remember going to visit them in North Carolina. They eventually moved to the District and lived here and so I would visit them when they lived her. Then they moved back to North Carolina after my grandfather decided he didn’t like being here. He had been here for 10-12 years and decided he didn’t like it and went back to North Carolina. He and my grandmother both actually died when I was in high school.
Did your parents ever speak of segregation in rural North Carolina and talk about what that was like?
Oh yeah.
And, can you talk about that a little bit?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. They hated that. It was a pretty direct and pretty inhospitable sort of segregation there. My parents’ families had been there for a long time.
Do you know if they were slaves there?
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. It is really cool in the sense that if you go to the White cemetery in Louisburg which is the next town to Franklinton you’ll see all these tombstones with Cooke on them. These are all White people who are not my relatives in a classic sense or direct sense but they are in a broader biological sense because they are the slave owners who owned relatives of mine who are named Cooke. My dad especially, that was one of the reasons he didn’t want to go back. The farming and just the segregation it was just horrible. I remember

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Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke: Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke:

going there as a kid and this is in the 50’s when I was a kid. And, I had lots of cousins there because 3 of my mother’s brothers, well her brother and 2 of her sisters still lived there. So we would go visit my grandmother. As a kid I remember my cousins making real clear to me, “You can’t go here or you can’t go there.” I remember sitting in the balcony of the movie downtown because Black people had to sit up there.

Can you estimate the year?
This is in, sometime between ’54 to about ’56.
And you were going up to the theater?
Oh yeah. Going upstairs and we couldn’t go into the front door of a store. We had to walk past the cemetery and it was really kind of weird because I hated going through the cemetery but it was just the way to go. And, you walked through the cemetery to go to the store to buy penny candy and stuff like that. But, we couldn’t go in the front door, we had to go in the side door. Black people could not go in the front. We had to go in the side door. When they integrated the high schools, the schools there ultimately, this is long after 1954, the Ku Klux Klan burned a cross in my uncle’s front yard because his house was across the street from the former Black school. His kids were integrating the formerly White school. They burned a cross in his yard. It was really, there was really some very ugly stuff there. It was really weird. I remember driving with my dad to North Carolina to visit relatives. My dad was always very uncomfortable about that because we had to drive through Virginia and we had to drive through North Carolina. He was always concerned that somehow he would get stopped with

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Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke:

these out-of-state plates that he had on his car and harassed or we would all be harassed. He was always very concerned about that. This was the only time I ever saw my father with a gun was when we would go on those trips to North Carolina. He would take a gun, I don’t know where he got it from. I never saw it before maybe it was a rent-a-gun, I don’t know.

(Laughter)…unintelligible.
Yeah, he would take this gun with him on these trips. My mother was always telling us to be very quiet and not to throw stuff out the window and just whatever. Just be good kids and sit in the back of the car and keep quiet, and play with each other, talk to each other or read a book or something like that. We had to get this trip done. This was before I-95 was fully built so when you were going down there you had to go on US Route 1 so you were going through a lot of small towns on the way to North Carolina. Lord knows what could happen when you hit the wrong town and the wrong cop in the wrong town or whatever. It would just be ugly. So it was a long trip. It took about 6 hours, 7 hours because you had to slow down when you went through these towns. So we would go on these trips and we thought it was fun you know the kids. We thought it was fun, we’d all be in the back laughing and having a good time. Reading signs and looking at license plates on cars and just stuff that you could see. I remember we would ask sometimes if we could stop and see this place. But my parents said “Nope, no stopping.” We would keep on trucking. So, my cousins and my other relatives, aunts and uncles in North Carolina had stories. My dad was really unhappy about that, but the interesting thing was that my dad when I got to be a college student

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Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke:

and a law student too for that matter and was involved in some of civil rights demonstrations, he was always admonishing me that I need “to be careful and that I shouldn’t be doing this, it was dangerous.” As much as he didn’t like it, he was I think the parental thing about me being in jeopardy just got in the way. He couldn’t see it the way I did at the time…
He was concerned.
Yeah, he was concerned and I remember one time we had this big argument. It was interesting because we hardly ever had arguments about topical stuff. My dad wasn’t that kind of guy. My dad was a very, very traditional Southern guy — very few words. His deal is “I told you to do it, I don’t need to say it again and you don’t have anything to say because you just do what I told you to do.” It wasn’t hostile it was just that’s just the way it was. He would leave notes for us to do things around the house. It was just crazy. He would leave these notes and he would come home and would say, “The note, the note I told you to do so and so.” And, it was like “I got stuff to do, Dad.” But he didn’t see it that way. But any way, when we had this big argument because I was explaining to him how racism was a horrible thing and we needed to rise up. He went through this long explanation about how all White people weren’t bad and White people had helped him do this that and the other and I should be mindful of that. While he and I did not agree at that time, I knew he was a guy who was very intelligent. This was a guy who wanted very much in his life to be an engineer. I believe he certainly had the smarts to become an engineer in terms of his innate ability and what he had learned through his life about how to do things. He helped me build radios

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Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke:

Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke:

and things like that when I was interested in that [unintelligible, not sure of statements here – tape 1A @ 857]. And he knew all about this stuff. He was a ham radio operator. He knew all this stuff about electronics and he really wanted to be an engineer. But, the time in which he was born, the circumstances in which he was born didn’t really allow that to happen. Then family demands and he just couldn’t do that. He wanted very much for me to be an engineer. So much so in fact that that’s why I became an engineer or at least wanted to be an engineer. It was because I was trying to live his dream. This is all retrospective psychological analysis. I wanted to live his dream. He was as clear to me about that as a thing he wanted to do, but he had not been able to do it. I went to (I don’t know how it happened), I got to go to McKinley Technical High School here in the city.
Where is that located?
It’s in NE, First and T Streets NE. And, I grew up in DC in NW near Georgia and New Hampshire Avenues, actually on Quincy Street. The schools here, you went to schools in zones based on where you lived.
Uhm hmm.
I lived very far away from McKinley so would have never gone there. For some reason, I was part of the whole baby boom, the schools had to figure out what to do with all these kids. There was this huge bump of kids that they had to figure out what to do with. I went to Banneker Junior High School and when I finished the 8th grade, the idea was that they were going to take all these soon to be 9th grade kids and put them in high school buildings because they didn’t have room for them physically in junior high school buildings. There were even more behind

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Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke: Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke:

us too and there just was not enough space. We were sort of the leading edge in this, and so they pushed all the 9th graders for the first time in the city’s history into high school. [End Side 1, Tape 1] So when it was my turn to go to 9th grade I thought that I was going to go with most of my 8th grade classmates to Cardozo High school which was the high school that Banneker fed into.

Where is that?
Cardozo is at 13th and Clifton Streets.
Is that still, that school still around?
Oh yeah. They’re both still around. Now, actually the school I lived physically closer to was Roosevelt High School. Which was at 13th & Allison Streets, NW or 13th & Upshur Streets. It was really weird. I got a letter in the mail one day that said that I was assigned to McKinley High School — totally out of the blue, didn’t ask for it, didn’t want to go there – the public school system said, “That’s where you’re going kid.” So it was just what you did in those days you just saluted and went. I show up at McKinley in the 9th grade and they are explaining to us how wonderful McKinley is and all this kind of good stuff and we’re like yeah, yeah we’re in 9th grade we don’t care. They tell to us that McKinley had 3 concentrations. One was kind of music/art concentration, if you had musical ability. One was a kind of biological sciences and the other was engineering and physics. I decided I would do engineering and physics because my dad had been interested in that. [Unintelligible, Tape 1B @025]. So I got into this engineering and physics program with the expectation that I would go to college, get into some engineering school, and be an engineer. My dad-proud of me, or happy

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Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke: Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke: Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke: Mr. Kempf:

Mr. Cooke:

Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke:

about what I was doing. I sort of enjoyed it. I was relatively good in math on the quantitative side. I applied when I was in high school to 2 schools to go to college. I applied to Howard University here in town because it was local, and I applied to the University of Southern Illinois in Carbondale Illinois which I had no idea where it was, or what it was. Somebody, I don’t think it was an adviser because an adviser at school told me that I needed to work with my hands, or and that I should not go to college because I was not college material.

So you this was your guidance counselor? Yeah.
Really?
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

(interrupting) So do you mind if I ask you a question?
Sure.
Do you remember the process that led you to not follow that advice? Or did you just always know that you were going to go to college? Was that something that your parents expected?
My dad certainly expected it. My mom was my mom. My mom was a wonderful, wonderful woman and loved her children, and anything we wanted to do she was happy with it. Going to college was great, but she did not see it as an imperative. She said, “You ought to do whatever makes you happy.”
She was gonna love you anyway.
Yeah, she was gonna love you. But my dad knew that college was the way to have a better set of circumstances income wise, and he was always encouraging

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me to think about college as something to do. We didn’t know how we were going to afford it, but the idea was I was going to go. So this woman, this adviser/counselor whatever you call it, said I should consider something manual.
I really hadn’t thought of it because I was in a school were most of the kids were thinking about college. It was just sort of an unannounced premise that this is what we were all going to do. We would finish high school and we were going to go to college. At least, most people I hung out with. Again – and you may not know this-, in the District in those days the students were arranged in the track system. There were 4 tracks. There was Track 1 which was college with honors, Track 2 which was college prep, Track 3 which was business, and Track 4 which they called the “basic track.” It was like manual and stuff — printing, auto mechanics. So, I was in Track 2 (mostly because I refused to be in Track 1, but that is another story) so the people that I hung out with my, my classmates were thinking about going to college. We were on college prep track and that was what the thing was. So, this teacher told me that I really should do something different. I just didn’t, you know we were rebellious anyway so what she said it was like, “Okay fine, that’s what you think, I’m going to college.” So, I somehow, it wasn’t her, somebody said I should apply to Southern Illinois. I didn’t know anything about Southern Illinois, had never heard of it, had never been to Illinois, didn’t know anybody who went there — just applied out of the blue. To go to Southern Illinois you had to take, not the SAT in those days, but the ACT. So I took the ACT and never took the SAT, took the ACT because that’s what you had to do to go to Southern Illinois, and I got accepted at Southern Illinois to be in the

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engineering program. And, they gave me a scholarship to come there. It was like really great. Now in retrospect, I think this was a part of getting more Black people to come out there but that was okay. So I say to my mom, “Hey I’m going to college and I’m going to Southern Illinois.” And she said, “No you’re not.” I says, “What do you mean? I got a scholarship.” She says, “It’s too far away, you can’t go there.” In a relative sense, almost an absolute sense, I was the first person in my family to graduate from high school let alone go to college. I had never been anywhere. Literally, the only place I had been in my life at that point when I was like a senior in high school was to North Carolina — D.C. to North Carolina. I had not been to New York City, I had never been to Philadelphia. I had driven to Baltimore because I wasn’t supposed to. When we got driver’s licenses we would drive to Baltimore to kind of be in another city. But, the only other place I had ever been was Baltimore or North Carolina. I had never been anyplace. I didn’t know anything. My mom was very, very protective. I was the oldest and it was “No you can’t go.” So, I was like bummed out, but I had applied to Howard and got accepted to Howard. So, she said, “You can go to Howard because you can stay at home” and I was like, “I don’t want to stay at home.” My dad was like not having that argument, “You got into college and Howard’s a good school, go.” So I went to Howard, and I remember how much drama there was with figuring out how to pay for college. Now, I was going to live at home so it wasn’t room and board but the tuition was $150.00 per semester. This was back in 1965. But they were like, “Whoa, how are we gonna make this $150.00 work?”

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Mr. Kempf:

Mr. Cooke: Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke: Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke: Mr. Kempf:

Mr. Cooke: Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke:

I wanna stop you for a second and ask you for a couple of facts if I could for the record here.
Sure, sure.
So, you graduated from high school in what year?

1965
And, it was McKinley high school?
McKinley Technical High School.
And, if I can ask before we move on to the college, I would like to ask you a couple more questions about McKinley.
Sure.
Do you know when McKinley was integrated?
McKinley was integrated in September 1954 like most of the schools in DC after the Brown v. Board of Education decision. Although in D.C. the decision was called Bolling v. Sharpe because we came under federal laws as opposed to the 14th Amendment, we were 5th Amendment. But yeah, in the school year beginning 1954, September.
(interrupting) So this was September?
Yes, September 1954 was when McKinley was integrated and by the time I got to McKinley which was in the fall of 1961, I guess, there were almost no White people there.
Really?
It had been an all-White school, and in 6 years there were almost no White people there. It was unbelievable.

Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke:

Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke:

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Mr. Kempf:

Mr. Cooke: Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke:

Do you know approximately what percentage African-American the school was when you finished?
Oh yeah, like 98 percent.
98?

Yes, or maybe 99 percent. There were like 3, 4, or 5 White people in the whole school. It was fine, and we got along with them. They were such a huge minority that nobody bothered them. They were good folks. At least, we thought they were. Some were on the football team and other stuff. They participated or not as they chose to. But, it was an amazing transformation. My parents were sort of blockbusters. We lived in Northeast Washington for a number of years. I sort of remember living on Ames Street but not much.

What was the name?
Ames Street…A-M-E-S. Northeast, I forget the hundred block.
Sorry to interrupt you. Do you know where you lived when you were born? Was it Northeast?
No. We lived in Northwest, and my parents lived down on 14th and Church Street NW. That’s where we lived when I was born. And, then we moved to Northeast. They lived on Ames Street for a while. They were blockbusters. They bought a house on Quincy Street, 917 Quincy Street was the house where I spent most of my growing up and I was really young — I think 4 or 5 years old. How many of you grew up in there?
All my brothers and sisters. I have two brothers and two sisters, all younger. Could you state their names please?

Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke: Mr. Kempf:

Mr. Cooke:

Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke: Mr. Kempf:

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Mr. Cooke:

Sure. Deborah is the next oldest and my brother Calvin. Then my sister Renee or Vanessa and then my youngest brother Billy (William). Billy is adopted. My parents adopted Billy after his parents abandoned him, but that’s another crazy story. And, I had another brother named Gordon who died as an infant sort of between my brother Calvin and my sister Vanessa. He was an infant and died, but I don’t have recollection of him because he died when he was like about three weeks old. And, so, they moved to this neighborhood that had been predominantly White. It was transitioned, but it had been predominantly White. Do you know what year approximately?

Approximately ’53 or something like that, maybe ’52. The school that was in that neighborhood was a school called Raymond. I remember that you could see Raymond Elementary School from my front porch. It really was a playground, Raymond Recreation Center and then on the other side of the playground was the school. It was like a recreation center, the Department of Recreation playground called Raymond. Then there was the school playground and the school building and you could see it from my house. It was a long block, but you could see it. But, I couldn’t go there because that’s where White kids went and I couldn’t go there. So, I had to go to a school called Bruce on Sherman Avenue which was a walk. You couldn’t see it from my house, it was a walk (about a 10-15 minute walk). I remember that I didn’t for some reason go to kindergarten, I went to first grade. My younger sister Deborah who was a year younger than I was went to kindergarten. I remember my mom walking us to school every day and picking us up every day from school. It was a little bit too far for six year olds to walk

Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke:

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unaccompanied and cross streets. I remember doing that and I remember that Bruce School had a coal-fired furnace. It had a big coal pit where people dropped coal off to put into the furnace to heat the building. We would just play in the coal pit and get so filthy. I remember getting punished more than once for not listening to my mother’s admonition not to play in the coal pit. (Laughter) Why not, it was coal pit. It was a little hill full of coal, how would a kid not climb up on that. I got in big trouble. And, then, the very next year (this was my first grade year) I went to what used to be called Division II School. I went to Bruce. The very next year, unbeknownst to me, this Brown thing was happening and my parents told me I was going to go to Raymond. I went to Raymond as a 2nd grader. There were lots and lots of White kids there that year. And, the next year, very few White kids. By the time I graduated from Raymond in the 6th grade there were no White kids in the school at all (laughing). Unbelievable. It was just like none! So, I remember all that kind of stuff of how this racial transition happened in the city. In a lot of ways it was just amazing. I don’t remember sitting upstairs in the balconies in movies here in the city. I do in North Carolina. What I do remember is going to movies on U Street as opposed to any place in the city. U Street is where there was sort of like the Black downtown, if you will. I remember going to the movies on U Street and then I remember that my mother would let me go to the movies by myself as I got older — about 12 or 13, teenager-like. I remember going to lots of movies all over the city wherever I wanted to go. My brother and I or friends and I would go. There was one in the neighborhood that we used to not be able to go to that we could suddenly go to. I

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Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke:

remember doing that and going to baseball games. Getting on the streetcar. The electric [streetcar] would drive from my neighborhood all the way down to Griffith Stadium which no longer exists and is now where Howard University ’s hospital is on that site — drive down to Georgia and Florida Avenue and go to baseball games. I remember when Willie Tasby was the first Black baseball player to play for the Washington Senators [actually it was Carlos Paula]. And I remember my dad and me going to see Willie Tasby play centerfield for the Senators when I was a kid.

How did you feel?
My dad was a big baseball fan. Which is part of the reason why I became a baseball fan. I really, really liked baseball, still do. In fact, my third daughter is named Rachel in honor of Jackie Robinson’s wife Rachel Robinson. Basically, I just liked baseball. I used to go down there [Griffith Stadium] and I could go by myself because I could just get on the trolley and drive down and go to the game and get back on the trolley and come back. There was not a lot of confusion about it. I could do that and I could negotiate that pretty much by myself. My parents would let me do that as long as I didn’t stay too long or get in any trouble. So, some buddies of mine and myself, my brother not so much. He was, my brother is three years younger than I am and I guess at the time that I was really into baseball he really wasn’t. He was too little of a brother and I didn’t want to do that. I would “you can’t go, you can’t keep up with us.” So he didn’t go. (Laughs) I have an older brother I know what that’s like.

Mr. Kempf:

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Mr. Cooke:

TAPE #2

Mr. Cooke:

Yeah, so I went with guys who were my age contemporaries. And, actually as it turns out, I was almost always hanging out with guys older than I was. I was the youngest one of my little group of friends, almost always. They were always… [Tape ends here]

I was talking about my neighborhood and how it evolved over time and how the racial aspect of the city changed, that I was a little bit aware of, not a whole lot. It wasn’t something my parents spent a lot of time talking about. It was that they would just tell you to do stuff, or not do stuff and not really explain why. I think they were probably protecting us, at least they thought they were, from a lot of discourse about unpleasant things (at least unpleasant in their minds). So, we moved there and I went to

(interrupting) there is Quincy Street?
Yes. “There” was Quincy Street and then I went to Raymond Elementary School and went there for 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th grade. Although, actually I was in the 6th grade twice because they figured out that I was sort of okay school wise and, when I was in the 5th grade, they put me in the 6th grade. That was fine, but then when I finished the 6th grade the first time they said I couldn’t go to junior high school because I was too young. And, they made me do the 6th grade again which, of course, was no fun (laughing). But, I had a great teacher who, a woman named Ms. Teague, who strangely enough was the niece of my next door neighbor. She didn’t live in the neighborhood or anything, but I came to find out that she was his niece. She was very helpful to me because she was the first

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teacher I had who told me I could be anything I wanted to be if I was willing to work at it. It wasn’t that other people necessarily discouraged me. She just sort of said, “You can do this, you can do anything you want to do if you are willing to work hard at it. You’re smart enough.” She was very, very helpful to me. And, in fact, it’s interesting that when I many years later (I really lost track of her, and I didn’t see her for a lot of years even though she was related to my next door neighbor), when I got to be the Corporation Counsel of the city she wrote me, sent me a little note. It said ‘Congratulations.” That was just amazingly heartwarming, and I wrote her back because at that point she had become a principal of an elementary school in Northwest Washington, H. D. Cooke (another ironic thing). She had become principal there and I sent her a little note and told her that I was really glad that she had sent her note and I carried what she said to me all this time. She had really been an influence. But anyway, she was very helpful to me. So I finished Raymond and I went to Banneker Junior High School which was about a mile from the house. A lot of time I would walk to school with my friends. At Banneker, because I had done the 6th grade twice and had done okay, they wanted to put me in the Honors Track. And, I didn’t want to be in the Honors Track because I said [to myself] there were too many girls and you know it just wasn’t, guys just didn’t do that. So, I resisted and then I became a behavior, deportment problem. So they didn’t put me in the Honors Track because I was a problem child. (Laughter) Which really annoyed my mother and father. I figured out a way to get myself suspended from school. So, once I did that they said you can’t be in the Honors Track because these are people who not

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only are academically performing they are also performing as responsible citizens. And, I said “Okay.” I wound up in the college prep track which was fine. That had more boys in that group and we just had more fun. I tell my children that from the time that I was in the 7th grade until I graduated from high school (5 or 6 years, 6 calendar years), I was suspended from school at least once a year every year. It was just bizarre. I don’t know how I managed to do that and still graduate (Laughter).

Schools were probably a lot stricter back then.
They were a lot stricter. But I really didn’t do anything really awful. I was just mischievous stuff. Just stuff done out of boredom that would cause me to think “Why can’t we do this?” And they would say, “Oh no, you have to go sit down.” Although one time I got suspended when I was at McKinley. I was in the 9th grade and I got suspended for about a week. I got suspended, but it was an in school suspension. I still had to go to school. I had to sit with the 9th grade principal who also was the algebra teacher. I had to take algebra three times a day (with the assistant principal for the 9th grade). [I was suspended] because I was in my homeroom with my homeroom teacher who happened to be White, she was a racist. I don’t know why she wanted to teach in a school system that was becoming, if not already at that point, overwhelmingly Black, but she did. My homeroom had been noisy a couple of days before and I think she was right about that. That wasn’t racist. She was right. She made us all write 500 times, “I will not talk in homeroom” or some such foolishness. My best friend at the time was a guy named Henry Thomas. Henry and I were just bad news together because we

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were always promoting each other to do something that was really outside the box. Henry and I decided we were not going to write 500 times “I will not talk in homeroom.” Because we would talk when we wanted to, saying that we would not talk would be a lie and we couldn’t tell a lie. So that was sort of our rationale. She had long ago separated Henry and me, and literally made us sit at opposite ends on the front row of the homeroom, Henry at one end near the door and me at the end closest to her desk. So that she could see us when we were doing stuff if we sat in the front row. The usual pass’em up, pass’em over thing. So people were doing this and Henry and I had not done it. She’s asking me because I am sitting fairly close to her, “Where is paper?’ because I am not pulling anything out of my notebook. I said to her, “Ooh I didn’t do it and I didn’t feel like it.” She began admonishing me that I should do what I was told, and that I was going to get in trouble, she was going to send me to the principal. Well, I had been there before so no big deal. When all the papers from the other kids get to me I sort of lean over my desk to hand them to her. She is jabbering at me about not doing my assignment, and she sort of snatches the papers and they fall on the floor. She says that I threw them on the floor. I said, “I didn’t throw them on the floor. You snatched them and you dropped them.” She insisted that I threw them on the floor. So, then she’s yelling at me (not horribly) admonishing me in a more stern tone. Some of the kids said, “No Fred didn’t throw them on the floor, you snatched them, you dropped them.” And, so she flipped out (Laughing). They were saying “No Fred didn’t” and she was saying, “I’m gonna tell the principal” and they were saying “No, no we’re gonna tell the principle that Fred didn’t do

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that.” So she says, “Who is the principal going to believe me or you niggers?!” And it was like “Oh sh–.” The class went wacko. Everybody started jumping up and down, screaming and yelling (makes screaming noises). “You didn’t say that, you didn’t say that!” So, the bell rings for the class day to start and we are all piling out of the room yelling at her and calling her names. Henry and I (Chip – referring to Henry) go to our class, architectural drawing or something like that. So, I am sitting in architectural drawing and we’re talking like, “Man, do you believe she said that? I‘m not going back to class tomorrow. I am not putting up with that.” All of a sudden the door burst open and it’s the principal, the assistant principal yelling, “Fred Cooke, come with me.” They snatch me out of there, and I tell Mr. Rhodes who is the assistant principal for the 9th grade, a guy named George Rhodes, who ultimately became superintendent of schools here. He became principal of McKinley and then superintendent of the schools. I tell George who became a friend in a strange sort of way long after this incident. I told George basically what happened. Fortunately, some of the other kids confirmed this. So, George says, “Okay. I hear you, but you were wrong. I’m going to suspend you, but I am not going to kick you out of school. You cannot go to homeroom and you cannot go to your other classes. You will stay here with me and you’re going to go to algebra class three times a day with me, and you’re going to do the homework for each algebra class and your other classes.” I protested to no avail. I liked algebra, but not that much. I did that for about a week. The homeroom teacher had a nervous breakdown, and never came back to

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school. So, we got a new homeroom teacher, a woman named Inez Elliot. She was a Black woman, taught English.
You were told she had a nervous breakdown?
Yeah, we were told she a nervous breakdown. She went away and she never came back. So, Inez Elliot became our homeroom teacher. Inez had been at the school and sort of knew about me through the rumor mill (Laughter). She disliked me from day one (Laughter).

It’s because you made that lady have a nervous breakdown (Laughs)
So, Ms. Elliot and I just fought all the time. She was a very prim and proper lady, very old school. Didn’t brook any sort of smart alecking from her students. I, of course, believed in smart alecking. It was to my core. So, she and I butted heads all the time. She would send me to George Rhodes’ office all the time because I was acting up in homeroom. He wouldn’t suspend me from school. She and I would just get into arguments and she would say “Go see Mr. Rhodes.” As I remember, Mr. Rhodes and Mr. Jewel (this is over time I think maybe my 10th grade year, Mr. Rhodes had become the principal of the school). Mr. Jewel was the assistant principal for boys, I guess that’s what they called him. And, so I was in his clutches. I would go see Mr. Jewel, I would go see Mr. Rhodes all the time because Ms. Elliot would send me down there. This is how crazy the world is, Ms. Elliot, by the time I graduated high school (I was in her homeroom for almost 4 years) she said that I was just a problem personality and that if I really buckled down my life would be a lot better, that I was really wasting my life. She really

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hoped that I would get squared away, but she wasn’t optimistic because she had seen me go in the wrong direction for too long. We sort of parted like that.
When I graduated from law school, I graduated magna cum laude (or whatever they call it). I was managing editor of the law review and I thought that I had done well in school. The day of graduation was a warm day. It was actually very warm (in those days Howard’s graduation was in June as opposed to now when they graduate like on Mother’s Day) so the temperature had cranked up some more. I decided that I would wear basically a sweatshirt and jeans under my gown. The gowns were rented, the caps we bought. At graduation, I graduated and my parents and I were going back to the house or whatever. I was not living at home at that point, but anyway. I had parked my car near the campus. I had turned in my gown, gotten my diploma and was on my way to my car. I am walking up Georgia Avenue and I run into Ms. Elliot.

Awww (Laughs).
Now, it turns out that Ms. Elliot had, her daughter had graduated from Howard the same day getting a Masters’ in English or something like that, English Education or something like that. But, anyway, she was there for her daughter’s graduation. She was walking down the street and going to her car or wherever. She sees me. I go “Oh, how you doing Ms. Elliot?” She says, “Oh, Mr. Cooke.” She asks “What are you doing here?” She says, “My daughter graduated.” I said, “Oh.” She says, “I see you haven’t done anything with your life. You’re just walking around now” (because I had on my sweatshirt and jeans). Now, I have to decide if I tell her I that I had just graduated from law school magna? I decide

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“No.” I tell her “You know you were right Ms. Elliot. I really should have applied myself more.” (Laughter)
Sounds like that smart aleckiness stuck with you.
Oh yeah. I just walked on and went on to my car. I didn’t explain to her. She was so sure that I was a failure, and I was happy to confirm that for her (Laughs). But anyway, so I go to McKinley and I’m in ROTC. They have Junior ROTC at McKinley. It was a big deal that all of us young guys wanted to be in ROTC. All the BMOCs were in ROTC. It just was the thing to do. We had a huge JROTC population. We had the biggest JROTC program in the city at McKinley High School. We had three regiments of cadets, and we were very proud of that. Often, we would win the competitions among the schools. Actually, we won most of the time. Our big rivals were Dunbar High School, and we would battle them for supremacy. This is where I sort of got hooked into a military kind of thing from the time I was in the 9th grade through senior high school. I was in this military thing. We carried these rifles around, and could field strip an M-1. We marched around. I was in Honor Company one year, and we won the Honor Company competition for the city one year when I was in E Company. I was in E Company in the 10th grade, I was in A Company in the 11th grade, and then, after I got to be an officer, I was assigned to, I was a battalion supply officer which is where they put people who don’t do anything. I didn’t do anything. I was very upset about that. Captain Brown who was the guy who ran the ROTC program made all these decisions as to who would get to be an officer and what position you would hold. For some reason, because I really wasn’t very big I was only

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about 5’10” (I grew about 4 inches by the time that I graduated from college), I probably weighed about 119, 118 pounds. I was not a presence. So, he decided I was a supply officer, and I didn’t want to be a supply officer. But I was a supply officer. So I did that, and I was a battalion supply officer (a pretty easy job). But anyway, I did that and I enjoyed ROTC. So when I went to Howard, as a freshman, ROTC was still mandatory at Howard for the first two years. It was like really bizarre. Nobody could believe it. People who came from other places across the country just did not understand how that could be.

What year did you start Howard again?
’65, September ’65.
So you started Howard in September 1965.
Right. I had gone through ROTC for this four years in high school and it seemed like it was part of going to school. But, to people who came from other places this was not normal. When Howard said you had to be in ROTC for the first two years, people were like this is crazy, I’m not doing this. There was huge dissension, and the “anti-war” thing was just starting to build. I joined Air Force ROTC because at that point I wanted to be a pilot. I thought that I was going to be an engineer. I was going to be a pilot, and Air Force ROTC was the way to go. I knew guys who had been to Vietnam in the Army. A friend of mine, a guy who was a class ahead of me in high school, a guy named Reynard Bouknight, his brother got killed in Vietnam when we were in high school. His brother was one of the early guys, in one of the early battles. The battle of Ia Drang. They made a movie about t called We Were Soldiers with Mel Gibson. My friend’s brother

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was one of the soldiers who died in that incident. So I knew guys who had died. Guys who had graduated from JROTC had gone and joined the Marine Corps, joined the Army, and they would come back home with their uniforms on and we would see them. I didn’t want to be in the Army. I wanted to be in the Air Force. I wanted to fly. So, I joined the Air Force ROTC at Howard because you had to be in the Army or Air Force. Pretty soon after that year began, people started protesting the war. It became this huge thing. When I was a sophomore (maybe I was a junior, I forget which), Howard eliminated the requirement that ROTC was mandatory for your freshman and sophomore years. It became completely voluntary. The only people in ROTC were those who wanted to be, which I think made eminent sense. But, I stayed in. Then I joined what they called POC (Professional Officers Corps) where you go into the advance phase of it to become an officer in ROTC, to take the courses that lead to a commission, and maybe a career in the Air Force. Halfway through my freshman year, before halfway through maybe in the first month of half my freshman year, I decided that I no longer wanted to be an engineer because I hated all the math they were making me do. And, I couldn’t do it. It was hard. I did not want to do it anymore. I asked them to let me out of the program, and I was told that I could not get out until the end of the school year.” So, by the time I was a sophomore I was out of the School of Engineering and Architecture, as they called it in those days, and I was in the College of Liberal Arts. Much better. I became a psychology major because I thought I wanted to be a doctor. I was going to be a psychiatrist, but I figured I would major in psychology with a natural science

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minor and get myself prepped up to go to med school or take another year in grad school and take science courses and go to med school. That was my plan. So, I’m in ROTC and I’m doing this stuff in school. Howard is going through a real transformation. The whole “Black” thing is really getting to be very prominent thought at school. Howard had been, and still is in the view of most people a pretty conservative institution. The students began to articulate ideas about Black nationalism, Pan-Africanism, things that were sort of outside the mainstream of what Howard traditionally had taught. One of the weird things is that when I got to Howard in 1965, jazz was not taught in the School of Music. It just wasn’t taught. (Laughs) A lot of students thought “Wait a minute.” If Black people are a primary source of jazz in America, what do you mean you don’t teach it? So students were like, “Oh, hell no Howard has to teach and celebrate jazz and other aspects of African American culture.” We were in protest mode almost all the time. Against the University, against the larger culture. I remember that when I was at Howard as a freshman, there was a woman at Howard who was a couple years ahead of me (she was a junior maybe, starting her junior year), I was starting my freshman year, a woman named Robin Gregory who had gone to McKinley High School. I knew Robin from McKinley (not ‘knew’ her because she was two years ahead of me and seniors would never dare to talk to sophomores), but I knew who she was. And, Robin was a cutie, a cheerleader, you know homecoming queen kind of girl. Robin decided that she was going to run for homecoming queen at Howard, okay. Well, the big controversy was that Robin was not going to have her hair straightened. She was going to wear it

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natural, an Afro. That just freaked the administration out. The University administration did not want her to represent the University as Miss Homecoming Queen with an Afro. No! No!” And the students said, “Yes, yes!” And, so the students elected Robin as the homecoming queen with this big ‘fro, this kind of Angela Davis kinda afro. The administration was just flummoxed, they just couldn’t believe it and they were just so upset. They threatened to cancel homecoming. It was really crazy. The really kind of over the top moment was when at the homecoming coronation. It was held in the big auditorium called Cramton Auditorium at the University. The students had (it is really a student-run deal although the University has the bless it) had Robin on this sort of huge lazy Susan that sort of revolved around. They had the lights done in such a way that the way it happened was you could see her silhouette before you could see Robin, the silhouette of her with that big ‘fro. The students went berserk.

(Laughs) That’s great.
It was just great. And, then you see Robin (she was a very attractive woman). The students were happy about it, but the University not so much. So there were all kinds of things like that going on. The Commanding General of the Selective Service System came to Howard to talk about the Selective Service, about the draft and about registering and what the draft meant. The students booed him off stage, wouldn’t let him talk. Security had to take him away to protect his physical safety. We did all kinds of stuff that was just very non-traditional against what Howard had been. Big, big debates about all kinds of stuff, on civil rights issues. All this is going on. We closed school down a number of times in protest of the

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war in Vietnam, the Cambodian incursion, University policies on dorm visitation, and more.
How did you close the school down?
We just took over/occupied the A building. We took over the Administration Building and just said, “No. Nothing is going to happen. No business as usual. You know, no business will be conducted today.” We did that, oh I was there from ’65 to ’72, and in that seven year period we probably closed the school down in at least five of those years.

And you were one of the people that went into the buildings?
Oh yeah. We were shutting it down. When I was in law school we were providing legal counsel to the students. Of course, practicing without a license, but it didn’t stop us. (Laughter). We had to do that. When Dr. King was killed in ’68, the school closed down of course. Actually, we had already closed the school down when Dr. King was assassinated. Then, a number of students were caught up in that kind of stuff. Because I was from D.C., I knew how to get around the check points that the U.S. military had set up throughout the city. So when they declared martial law and had these curfews, some of us who knew how to get around the city would go around the checkpoints and go all over the city. Mostly, we were looking for students who had been arrested, or had been trapped in different parts of the city and couldn’t get back to campus. Because parents and University officials were looking for them. Obviously, it would be a concern if your kid is here from Kentucky, and you see the city’s on fire. You want to

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know where your kid is. Well, we were trying to help find out. So, we would forge passes, and stuff like that and go around the city looking for students.
I remember when I was in ROTC, actually I got to be…in my senior year I was a lieutenant colonel and operations officer, so I would plan all the things that we were going to do. All of the exercises. So we would be out on the campus in little formations doing things. The students would come and stand in our formations to protest the war and protest fascism or militarism or whatever they were talking about. So, they made it physically difficult to be on campus. Because students would get into arguments with the ROTC students. It really wasn’t that they were necessarily assaulting us. They would just stand in the way just to be in the way. The ROTC guys being guys would push them out of the way, and that would lead to confrontations. At a point, some students, or somebody set fire to the ROTC building. It was a big temporary building that was built during World War II, and housed the Army and Air Force ROTC student offices. The building burned to the ground, but no one was hurt. After that I issued this order that said that you didn’t have to wear your uniform except when you were in drill. Before that, we would wear the uniforms three days a week, two days a week and on drill days you’d wear it all day. I said, “You don’t have to do that. Only wear your uniform when you are in drill.” Because it got to be a problem. It got to be a hassle. So I had a locker on campus, and I would bring my uniform, change, run out and go back in and change again because it got to be such a problem. But, the weird part about that was that these guys who were protesting ROTC were my friends. We were all shutting the school down

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together. We were protesting the war in Viet Nam, and other stuff. We were doing all kinds of other crazy stuff. So I was always concerned. One of the things that I was concerned about was, getting my commission. I was convinced that the FBI, or whoever was watching us would see me at these demonstrations. So it was like how could you be an officer in the Air Force if you’re subversive. But they gave me a commission anyway. I could never figure that out (Laughter). I kept thinking ‘I wouldn’t give me a commission.’ It was a great, great, great experience.

When Dr. King was assassinated in April 1968, I was just finishing up my sophomore, or junior year. That affected me to the extent that I spent most of the summer trying to figure out what was I going do about that. Was I going to go into the Air Force? Because at that point I was already in the advanced program, and I would have had to try to figure a way to get out. I was trying to figure out should I get out and if I was going to get out, how was I going to get out. I was trying to figure out how I could be helpful. How I could use this education I was getting to some constructive benefit. I decided that I did not want to be a doctor anymore. I decided I wanted to be a lawyer. Now, I had never met a lawyer. But I decided that I would become a lawyer. So I decided between the end of my junior year and the beginning of my senior year that I was going to go to law school, and that was my way to make a contribution.
Do you remember the thought process that led you to decide that you wanted to be a lawyer?

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Well, it was mostly seeing on TV and reading in newspapers that lawyers were filing lawsuits and representing people who were protestors or demonstrators. I thought that was something that I could do and could make a better contribution.
I was quite frankly not too interested in being beaten senseless like John Lewis. I thought that being a lawyer was a way that I could contribute in a constructive way. So, I decided to go to law school. Over that summer I decided to go. A good friend of mine, a guy named Francis Kennard, decided he was going to go to law school too. Well, the reason I had been talking to Francis was that Francis had been kicked out of Howard his junior year because he had been too active in the student protests his sophomore year. Francis went to Ithaca College in Ithaca, NY to sit out his year suspension. We would talk to Francis while he was in Ithaca because he hated it and, rightfully so. It was awful.

It’s cold man.
It’s cold. Just awful. Francis who is from Baltimore came back and he and I started hanging out. He had been readmitted and promised to be good (which of course was a lie). So Francis and I talked about what to do and he said he was going to law school and I said I thought I was going to go to law school too. We were walking around campus one day and we decide to go to the University testing office or service, whatever they call it, to find out about this LSAT that we had heard about. We didn’t know anything about it. We said “What is that and when can we take it?” “Do we have to take it to go to law school and when do we take it. And, how much does it cost?” The people there said “Well, you know, this is what you have to do to go to law school, everybody has to take it, it costs

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$50 or whatever the number was, and they’re going to give one (at Howard I think, but I am not sure) at Howard in two weeks.” And we said, “Okay, put us down.” (Laughter) We didn’t know. They said okay we will waive the fee for you guys if you want to take it. So we said okay put us down. We show back up in two weeks with no clue, totally clueless. We take the LSAT and were like “Man, what was that?” (Laughter) It was horrible. Time goes by and we were also looking at law schools. We were trying to figure out where we were going to apply. So we got looked at a number of law schools that we were going to apply to. We thought Harvard, Cornell. I don’t remember exactly. I may have applied to four or five law schools. I am not sure. Then I get the LSAT scores and I have no idea what the scores mean. I’m sending them to the law schools. I had no idea what they meant. I don’t really remember, but I think we got just sort of middling, high average scores. I didn’t study for it. I just went in and took it. I had no idea what I was doing.

That’s great.
So, then I applied to law schools, and in this process I get accepted I think at Harvard but they don’t have any more scholarship money, and I could not go if there is no scholarship money. I get accepted to Cornell. Strangely enough, about the time I get accepted to Cornell, I see on the cover of Newsweek or Time (I forget which) Black law students at Cornell with rifles as part of a student protest. I’m thinking “I don’t think I need to go there.” So, I crossed Cornell off my list, and I wind up going to Howard. It was a pretty easy transition. I didn’t have to move. I knew what the deal was. The law school was on campus with the

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University. I had sort of seen the law school, so I figured I could go there. So, I decided to go to law school at Howard. That was really the best decision I made. I really think in retrospect I would not have been successful at most any other law school. Certainly not a predominantly White law school, because I was not psychologically ready to deal with that part of the world. I was still in this cocoon that was really the best place for me to be at that point of time in my life. I really wouldn’t have handled it well.

So, I went to Howard, and had a great experience. I met a guy named Clay Smith there. My very first day of law school I met J. Clay Smith who graduated from law school in ’67, this is in the fall of ’69. He graduated in ’67. He was working on his master’s at GW. He saw me standing out in front of the law school, and it’s just total fortuity. He stops me and my good friend Gil Ray (a classmate of mine) and he asks us, “What are you guys doing?” We said, “Well we are new to the law school, just trying to figure out what’s going on.” He says, “Well look, I graduated from law school and this is what you need to pay attention to.” He basically told us what we needed to do to be successful in law school. How we had to study, how we had to spend time in the library, etc. My eyes sort of glazed over, because what he told us sounded like a lot of work. I hadn’t really, you know, I wanted to be a lawyer. I didn’t have any idea what the task involved. I had been a pretty good student, in undergrad. But, undergrad is a different kind of thing.

Did you study hard in undergrad? How would you characterize?

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I studied hard in fits, in spurts. I studied hard when I needed to. Most of it you could sort of you know read and get through and negotiate in class. Exams were sufficiently loosey-goosey so that you weren’t pressed too hard all the time. I had a pretty good GPA in my major and a pretty good overall GPA. I wasn’t really working as hard as I could have or should have until I got to law school. After I talked to Clay, I realized that I really needed to change the way I was doing business, and that I really had to work hard at this if I was going to be successful at it. I became a much better student in law school than I had been in undergraduate school.

For the record, did you graduate with a degree in psychology?
Yes. I graduated with a degree in psychology in 1969. A B.S. because I had that crazy natural science minor. Zoology and microbiology, horrible course that I took because in the beginning I thought I was going to go to med school. I got the B.S. in Psychology and then went to Howard. I was in a relatively small class at Howard. There were only about one hundred and eighteen, or some number like that, in the class. Which was significantly smaller than classes had been in the recent past. And, certainly, smaller than the classes after for reasons they didn’t mention. For some reason my class was small. Can’t quite figure out why that is. The class was older than most classes. A lot of people had masters’ degrees, or had work experience in some area their undergraduate degree and then decided to go back to law school. I was one of the relatively few people who (I say out of 118 there must have been only about maybe 20 0r 25 who had gone straight through) and I was sort of younger and had gone straight through. That was sort

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of okay. There were some interesting characters in my class. People who had done stuff. It made it more difficult for the professors because you had people who had some real world experience and were saying, “Well, I don’t like that.” So professors weren’t all that keen on the push back. But, it was a good experience. Clay got me on a track that ultimately led to my getting a scholarship. I had my tuition paid for the last two years by the Ford Foundation Scholarship that the law school had. I did well enough to get that. At the end of my first year of law school, near the end of my first year, we closed school down again. The University closed because we got tired of something. So, the whole University shut down.

(Laughter)
It was unfortunate in terms of the timing because then it was like a finals problem. And, then did you just have one set of exams?
Yeah, yeah, exactly.
So they were all in the spring, right?
Yeah, yeah. It was back in the Stone Age when you got one exam and it was at the end of the spring semester. So courses were two semesters long and you got one exam. Well, most of the courses. I guess we had one course that was one semester. So the University types said that the students could take ‘take-home exams’ or ‘pass-fail exams’ and that would suffice. So the law school administration tells the students that we can take ‘pass-fail’, or and we can take ‘take-home exams.’ So I and about five other people in the first year class said no. Our contract with the law school says I get an exam, and I want a real exam

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because I don’t want to take a sit down exam for the first time at the end of my second year. I want to do it now. I want to know where I am. So, many of my classmates told us that we were out of your minds. But about six of us insisted on sit down exams. We insisted on that. And, they gave us sit down exams. So we took this sort of normal, well, semi normal, exams — first-year sit downs. The good thing about that was that we did better than most everybody. That is why I got the Ford Foundation Scholarship because I had a GPA (laughing) as opposed to a pass-fail. So we did that and…

(interrupting) How was your first year? How was the experience of your first- year courses and learning the law?
It was hard, it was difficult, but it was also very enlightening. We had some professors who had been involved in the civil rights movement. Guys like Elwood Chisholm, people who are not well known as lawyers in the movement but had been involved. I mean, you know, Thurgood Marshall and Jim Nabrit and others had a lot of people helping them. They were great lawyers, and I am not trying to take anything from them but they had a lot of guys helping them. And, some of these guys were guys who were teaching at the law school. The law school was a very significant part of the incubation process for some of the ideas, where some of the ideas were test-driven and researched. So, Chick Chisholm (Elwood Chisolm) and some of the other faculty were part of that. They would tell us great war stories about things that went on. One of the things I remember Chick Chisolm taught me was, he taught civil procedure — it was just like a completely crazy course. Because I had no context. And the way they teach you

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civil procedure is as though it means something to you when you’ve never been into a courthouse as a practitioner, it’s like “What is all this stupid stuff mean.” But, anyway, one of the things he taught us was to approach it like you would if you were a carpenter or some kind of workman and that there are tools to do different tasks. Sometimes you have to get the task accomplished when you don’t have that particular tool. And, he was sort of interested in teaching us not only how to use the rules of civil procedure to accomplish the intended purpose, but how you could use rules to accomplish purposes that the rules were not necessarily built for. For example, how when a judge is trying to keep you from doing something that needs to get done you have to be prepared to do it another way. This was borne out of experience with hostile judges who were not particularly sympathetic to his arguments in court. It was interesting because for us, or for me, it began to put civil procedure into some context. It was not just this abstract bunch of rules. It was difficult because it was kinda crazy stuff that I had no anchor to. I wound up reading the civil procedure book all the way from the beginning to the end by the end of the first semester. And I read it again through the second semester. That, I think, was useful to me. The second time around stuff sort of made sense especially after you’ve gone through the book. See, stuff at the beginning of the book was related to stuff at the end of the book except you don’t know that yet because you haven’t gotten to the end of the book (Laughter). By the time I had made the loop once and began to read it the second time, I was like “Oh, I get it.” Civil procedure and real property and corporations and torts and all that stuff they make you take as first years, at Howard at least.

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Again, a very limited curriculum. They had very, very, very few electives. Everybody was taking the same thing. Evidence, crim law, crim procedure. It was a little bit odd because I didn’t know anything about it, but it was a lot of fun. I learned a lot. I thought there was a huge intellectual challenge of trying to learn stuff that other guys knew and were good at. I figured “Well I can do that, I just have to work at it.” So, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the kind of the solitude and trying to work through logic that a case was about or what the principle was. I just sort of liked that. It was a great stroke of luck for me because it was something that I did not know that I would be particularly interested in substantively. Or even that I had any real aptitude for. I didn’t really know that. I mean, I hoped that, but I didn’t know that. It turned out that I really enjoyed it and I was fairly good at it. So, I had a great time my first year. That was part of the reason why we insisted on the exams because I wanted the full experience. I wanted it all.
So, I finished the first year and I get this scholarship, and I get invited to participate in the law review. And, so I become a staff person. Then we decide “You know we should try to figure out a way to be the host of the National Conference of Law Reviews. Get the Conference to come to DC. We could get a bunch of judges who are already here. Blah blah blah.” So we make this big pitch to host it. And lo and behold they say “Yeah.” (Laughs). And, we go “Oh no, why’d they do that.” We went down to the conference. That year it was in Williamsburg Virginia, William and Mary, they were the host school. We had put in our proposal before the conference. We go to the conference and they announce at the conference where the next conference was to be held and they

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announce it’s us. And, we were like “Gee mcree I didn’t think that was going to happen.” So, it was really pretty cool. So, then I got elected to be the chairman of the National Conference of Law Reviews for our host year. I also got elected to be managing editor of the journal. It was really kind of a pain because I was really doing two jobs. I really didn’t need that.

It’s a lot of work.
Yeah, it was a lot of work. I was working to make money to pay the rent. The scholarship only covered the tuition.
Oh, so you had a job?
Oh yeah.
What was your job?
I had a bunch of jobs man. I worked with the Boy Scouts in their office they used to be up at Connecticut and Florida. I worked for the Naval Electronic Systems Command, I was a clerk. I ugh, what else did I do? I worked at the Library of Congress. So I had different jobs. Multiple and at the same time sometimes. So we did that and that was work the second, for the third year, it was work. The second year was work too.
In the spring of 1971 I went to Mississippi as part of the Howard University Mississippi Project. I went to work for North Mississippi Rural Legal Services that was headquartered in Oxford, Mississippi. But, as it turned out, I worked in Greenwood, Mississippi in an office there.
And, if I may interrupt, this was the summer?
No.

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I’m sorry.
(chuckles) This was even more crazy than that. This is the second semester of my second year in law school.
Second semester of your second year.
Yeah. I just left school. I just pfft, I’m outta here. I went to work in Mississippi. So this was a ugh, but did you get course credit for this work or no?
Well, what happened was this: Howard had this thing called The Howard University Mississippi Project where…
(interrupting) Could you explain that?
Where students from all the schools and colleges went to Mississippi to work on different things. Some of it was in the summer and some of it was during the school year. Now, what was supposed to happen was that the different schools and colleges would give you (you’re right) course credit for going to work in Mississippi during the school year. If you were in the College of Dentistry or if you were in the School of Divinity or if you were in the School of Social Work they had programs set up where you got credit for some course or courses for working a semester or, whatever it was, in Mississippi. Well, our school didn’t have one because they kept saying, “Well, we can’t teach law in Mississippi. You are a student. You can’t practice law so you can’t go unless you want to go in the summer.” I wanted to go to Mississippi right now (then). So, I go to Mississippi. I need to go to Mississippi. [End Side A, Tape 2]…
(Laughs)
I gotta go.

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And state, and the year was again?
This is spring ’71.
Okay.
Early spring ’71. Like January, like right at the beginning of the semester. I decided I have to go to Mississippi. I can’t wait. I can’t wait ‘til summer. I have to go now. So, my classmates are telling me “You know you can’t just leave school, you’ve got to go to class.” And, tell them that, “I don’t have to go to class because I’m going to Mississippi.” So, I tell my professors that I’m going to Mississippi. And I’m going to be gone for six weeks, I’m going to Mississippi, So, I take my law books. And you know I figured that I would read stuff when I get a chance, and catch up when I get back. So I go to Mississippi. I fly to Memphis and then drive from Memphis to Greenwood (where I’m going to go to work).

By yourself? Or do you have other people with you?
Oh no, no. Well, there are other people there but I’m…
(interrupting) but you’re traveling by yourself.
But there are other people there. There’s a guy there, the guy who runs the office in Greenwood is a guy who, Black guy, who was the third Black graduate of the University of Mississippi Law School. And, I later found out that it was named the James O. Eastland School of Justice which I always found humorous. But anyway, I go there and he’s there. A guy who had gone to Howard’s Law School, a guy named John Brittain, who now works for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights. John Brittain, in between he was the Dean at Texas Southern’s Law

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School. John is there and some more people are there and a couple were students from other schools than Howard. So, we go and we, I’m in Greenwood you know. We work in the office there and we’re doing outreach. We’re trying to get people registered to vote. We’re trying to get people housing and public assistance because they’re entitled to it. There happens to be another bit of irony. There’s a protest there because there is a White-owned, Black-formatted radio station in Greenwood Mississippi that the owner is now going to convert the format to Country and Western. And, the Black community which is the predominant in terms of numbers, not economics but the numbers, doesn’t have a station formatted that they particularly care for. So they want to protest. So, we help with the protest. The guy’s name, Alex Sanders is the guy who runs the office from the University of Mississippi Law School and he’s from Greenwood. So, I had never been that far south. Again, this is really weird, this is my second year in law school and I still hadn’t been anywhere. I hadn’t been to New York City. I hadn’t been to Chicago. But, I guess I had been to Chicago. I went to Chicago to eh, no that was later on that year. I hadn’t been to Chicago yet. I went to Chicago at the end of that year. But I hadn’t been anywhere. I had been to New Orleans. The Air Force took me to New Orleans and I, so I had been to New Orleans.

So you really hadn’t been out of the South because Baltimore is… (interrupting) No. North Carolina was the farthest south I’d been. Wow.

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So I get to Mississippi and this is virulent racism. This is like, this is like anything I had seen in North Carolina was a day at the beach compared to this. Because there the people, the White people were so ugly that if you went into a store they would not touch you. They would not put money in your hand. It was like one of these deals where you had to put the money on the counter and they’d put the change on the counter. They would not touch you. There was no direct contact. And it was real hostile.
In 1971.
In 1971.
Wow.
1971. And, it was ugly and I had never seen that kind of virulent racism before. So, one day, me and another guy who was from Mississippi, not Alex but another guy, who had been there (worked there longer than I had)….tornadoes had come through and had wreaked a lot of havoc and they were sharecroppers. You know I had never seen a real plantation. They had real plantations. And these Black people who lived in theses ‘shotgun’ houses.’
All cotton fields.
Yeah, all cotton fields. Lived in these shotgun houses. Dirt floors, no indoor plumbing. They had these houses sort of arranged on a little horseshoe, semi- circle. And, water came up to the front porch kind of thing (it was a common porch on these houses) and that’s where the water came to but there was no water in the house. It was just up there and you’d get water there. So the tornadoes had come through and knocked a bunch of these shotgun houses down and people

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didn’t have any place to stay. Red Cross and whoever had put up a place for people to stay at the schools and public buildings. But the people at this particular shotgun house wouldn’t leave. They said they wouldn’t leave because the plantation owner, their boss, the guy who owned the place said if they left, you know, they wouldn’t be able to come back to there and they couldn’t leave there because they needed work. So, we were saying to them, “You know you can’t do that, you have to take care of the kids, or you have families and you need to get them warm food, and a warm place to stay” So, we’re over here trying to get them to do that and trying help them get this assistance. And, some guy, a foreman, tells us we have to leave. We’re on private property and we can’t be there. We were like “pfft, we can do what we want to do.” So he says he’s gonna call the sheriff. So we leave. So we go back the next day with Alex because he is from there and maybe he knows these people or knows of them, maybe he could get them to agree to get out of this situation. So we go. So we’re talking to them. Sort of out in the distance we could see this pickup truck (that the people told us was the foreman’s pickup truck). We did not want to have another confrontation, but we were not going to leave, or let the foreman tell us what to do. Then all of a sudden we hear this noise, it sounds like gunfire. And we hear this “pfffew” and realize that they are shooting at us. So we hop in the car and we (makes revving noise) and we start to drive away. So the guy that’s driving is the guy, I think from Connecticut. He’s not from there. So we’re driving and we come to this place where there’s this sort of almost this fork. One side goes down to like this pond and the other side goes out to the highway. So the guy from Connecticut

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doesn’t know where he’s going. He takes the wrong road and goes down to the pond. But that turned out to be a great stroke of luck because the guys in the pickup truck figured nobody is stupid enough to go down to the pond because there’s nowhere to go. So they go out toward the highway.

Oh my gosh!
And so they don’t get us. We go back, and we go out the other way. Probably not related, but somebody fire bombed Alex’s mom’s house while I was there. It was ugly.
Wow.
So I’m there for a while and I’m calling back every once in a while to find out how things are at school ” So then one day Alex, John Brittain and I we decide we’re going to go to Jackson because the Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier fight will be broadcast to a movie theater there. So we decide to go to the fight on like Saturday night, or something like that, to go to Jackson. And the fight is telecast in (unintelligible, Tape # 2 Side B @672). But, it’s really kind of weird because there’s all these rednecks in there who hate Ali, right. And he’s like, he’s a hero to us.
Right.
So we are like tiptoeing around who we want to win the fight because we’re not sure that we could live through it. So we do that. So after about six weeks, you know, my time is up. I have to go back because I probably need to get back to class eventually.

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Can I stop you just a second? And I’ll ask you, are there any other memories of your time in Mississippi that, I mean, it just seems for such a young man at a time in our nation’s history when so much was changing and happening and to be in such a situation, I wouldn’t asking…

Well, you know what, we went to the rally, protest rally for the radio station that they were going to change the format to and we’re in this church or building (I don’t know, it’s not a big building, about 50 people). So, we’re in there and we’re talking about what we’re going to do and how we’re going to protest and how we’re going to try to make economic impact on the merchants who advertise on the radio station. To let them know that we are unhappy about that, and that people are going to stop patronizing the stores as a way to convince them to convince the station owner to change the format back. There’s this explosion (boom). Lights go out. Everybody’s on the floor. People are panicking like “Oh, God we’re going to get shot here.” Turns out that some sort of transformer blew out. It was a total happenstance.

(Laughs)
But, JB who in those days always carried a gun (I stayed close to him and I knew that if anything happened JB was going to have his gun) and maybe we could scare people off, if nothing else.
And who is JB again?
John Brittain. Yeah, John Brittain used to drive around in a Triumph sports car with his gun (it was a .38) on the passenger seat. Always when he was in Mississippi because he used to say, “They’ll never shoot me without me shooting

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at least one of them or getting somebody.” We went all over Greenwood (in the Delta), Greenwood, Rolling Fork, Belzoni, Itta Bena, Sunflower. There were a bunch of places around there were we went and met with people and tried to help people. Mostly with voter registration. Mostly trying to help people deal with these crazy plantation owners who were just abusing them. In these classic company store kind of things where, you know, you didn’t get paid in money you got this script that only “Bob Plantation Owner” cashed. It was only good in “Bob Plantation Owner’s” store. It was unbelievable. You know, I just, you know I read about that stuff in law school and I just thought “this can’t be.” But, this is 1971 and it is alive and well. This was not a fiction. This was not something some author was creating to kind of create a huge vivid thing that would make me excited. I was seeing it. It was really kind of weird.

So, I was there for a while. We went to a lot of churches and rallies with ministers and people trying to get people to do stuff. It was a very inhospitable time. Obviously, there were some folks of good will of both races who were really trying to move past all that lunacy. But, there seemed to be so many people that were just absolutely invested in that kind of craziness. There weren’t about to make a change. It was just crazy. You, know my mom didn’t want me to go to Mississippi.
What about your dad?
My dad didn’t want me to go to Mississippi, but he did not argue with me about it because he knew there was no point to it, to the discussion. But my mom really, really didn’t want me to go to Mississippi. That was sad because she was very

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unhappy about my decision to go to Mississippi. But I told her “I have to go, I have to go to Mississippi. I have to do this.” If I had come back in a box, you know, that’s what I had to do. It was interesting because I remember as a kid (I was younger than he was), I remember Emmett Till’s death. That scared the hell out of me as a kid. To see this teenager killed and his really grotesque body picture they had of him at the time. And, I thought, “Man, these are some very, very mean people; they’ll do anything.” So that was sort of one of the things that was in my mind. But it was one of those things where I wanted to conquer the fear. I didn’t want to be paralyzed into doing nothing because I was afraid. I thought that if I let those people make me that afraid then nothing good would ever happen. It’s kinda like jumping out of airplanes when I was in the Air Force. I jumped out of airplanes and I was very afraid. But it was one of those things I had to do. I had to make myself jump out of those airplanes.

How did you feel when you were (that story about being chased on the farm), how did you feel when they were chasing you?
I thought they were going to kill us. I did think (that was kind of like the Emmett Till moment), I thought that they were going to kill us and hang us or kill us. Just shoot us and leave us there dead and say that we were somehow, you know, the big word in those days were ‘outside agitators.’ We were somehow outside agitators and that created some kind of reason why we needed to be dead. And, nobody would know or care. I had seen all these crazy stories where justice in the Mississippi legal system as well as the federal system didn’t really exist for Black people by and large. People would get killed and nobody would ever figure out

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who did it although everybody knew who did it. Or people would be found not guilty like in the Emmett Till case. The guy would go to the Saturday Evening Post or Look Magazine and confess after he was acquitted. So, I was very, very afraid. I was really more afraid when they blew up Alex’s mom’s house because I figured we could’ve died in our sleep. After trying to get a few hours’ sleep after working hard all day. Some crazy guy just blew her house up. I mean, that frightened me more than these guys. That was frightening but that was temporal. That was like “Whoa it’s over, phew. I’m just not going back over there again.” These guys that would just throw a bomb with a couple sticks of dynamite through your window at night, Jesus, you know.

This could happen anytime.
Anytime. Yeah. That was scary. That was just a constant worry. You just never knew when one of these guys would get drunk enough or angry enough to take a couple sticks of dynamite and drive by 3:30 in the morning and just, phew, blow you up. I don’t know how guys like Dr. King and other people in the civil rights movement when it was even worse than I’m talking about, when they were in the mid-‘50s through ‘60s. I don’t know, I can’t imagine how much anxiety that produced. I guess at a point it just becomes normal behavior. You just accept that it’s a part of what your life is and you don’t dwell on it. But man, the house blowing up thing scared me. That happened after I was there for about three or four weeks. It had only been a couple weeks that I was constantly worrying about being blown up as opposed to the whole six weeks. (Laughs) But that was enough.

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Wow. How were the folks down there, the African Americans?
Beaten down. Absolutely beaten down. That was a problem. There’s a book written, The Miseducation of the Negro, by Carter G. Woodson. In the book Carter G. Woodson says some other things but one of the most insidious things about racism, segregation in this country is that, when you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You don’t have to keep a Black person in their place by force, they will learn. If you teach them well enough they will learn their place. They will assume it automatically. So, what happened to a lot of people was that they had for so many years, generations of that mentality. Too many of them accepted it. And there clearly were people there who, like Fannie Lou Hamer and lots of other heroes and heroines who bucked the system and knew there was a different way to live, but for Joe Average it was just accepted. When I went on active duty in the Air Force in 1978….
(interrupting) Was that after law school?
Yeah, that was after law school. I went to Cocoa Beach, Florida at an Air Force base called Patrick Air Force Base in Cocoa Beach, Florida. It was on the east coast of Florida not too far from Cape Canaveral. That was one of its missions, to support the Cape Canaveral activities. But, down the east coast of Florida runs the Florida East Coast Railway. It runs down the east coast of Florida and almost invariably on the inland side of the railroad is a Black community. There’s Cocoa and there’s Cocoa Beach. There’s almost always a city that almost has the same name on the inland side of the railroad tracks that is populated primarily by Black

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people. Went to Cocoa Beach in 1978. It was a sparsely populated, military- driven community, not friendly to Black people at all. So one day I decide to find out where the Black people are. I go to Cocoa. And, sure enough, there’s Black people. It’s a down-on-its-luck kinda town. Not very much affluence but a kind of beach community nonetheless. Well, the interesting thing to me there was that the Black people there almost never looked you in the eye. They were very beaten down. They just had accepted a certain station in life for themselves that to me was very, I was annoyed by it. I knew that they didn’t have to behave that way. It was 1973 for God’s sake. People can lift their heads up. You can look White people in the eye. You could say, “yes” or “no” to people based on the merit of what they’re saying not just because a White person says it. Again, I am not being linear but when I went to Cocoa it reminded me of being back in Mississippi and that whole mentality of people who had been depressed for so long that down is up. So, that was one of the things that I saw. Now there were clearly some people there who wanted it to be a different thing. But their struggle was the same struggle that we had as outsiders. Trying to get that critical mass of people who would say “I want things to be different” as opposed to “It’s been like that, it’s gonna be like that. Why buck the system?”
In trying to generate that critical mass, did the church play much of a role in that or was that more…?
The churches were at the center of the activity. The churches, the ministers (not all of them by any stretch of the imagination), were the gathering places where people that had vision and energy to try to do something different. That was

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where most of it was happening. And, some teachers. Teachers in the Black schools and the segregated schools there who had been exposed to something different. Whether it was going to school in Mississippi at one of the various schools in Mississippi or going to school in let’s say ‘up North’ and coming back and saying, “You know this has gotta change.” There were a lot of people who were principals or teachers and some ministers who had real energy to try to make those things go. But there were a lot of people who just weren’t able to do that. They just wanted to live to see tomorrow. They didn’t have much in the way of next week or next year. It was just like “can I get through the day so I can be up for it tomorrow.” It was tough. I’d never really seen that before. As I tell people, I grew up in a family that didn’t have any money. I will not say we were poor because I think poor is much more a state of mind than it is an economic reality. We were people who didn’t have money. But my parents had middle class aspirations for both themselves and their children, primarily. We sort of had that middle class notion of deferred gratification. You know, get this education because that’s going to make it better for you tomorrow kind of thing. So they were middle class minded without in fact being middle class. Too many of those people who I met in Mississippi who were not middle class and had no aspirations beyond the immediate survival kind of thing. [They seemed to think] “I’ve have to figure out a way to feed, clothe and house my family and I don’t have time for this theoretical equality thing. I have survival issues to deal with.” And, that fundamentally is a challenge when you confront people in that situation. You’ve got to move them past survival. Most of the stuff that you and I are involved in

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on a day-to-day basis is a function of a middle class mentality; that is to say, once you move beyond survival you can think about other stuff. But, until you get survival taken care of you can’t think about these other things very effectively. They just don’t register in a way that become action items for you because you have to do food, clothing, shelter. I think oftentimes when we get too far past that we forget that. We forget that when we look back at people we sort of look down on them or don’t really appreciate what their plight is. It’s because they are not where we are, not because they’re not smarter or less smart, because they’re not emotionally at a place where they can do the things that we can do. They cannot afford to spend time thinking about what color is my china service is going to be. Because it’s like, (laughing) until I have something to put on the china I don’t need china.

Do you think your training in psychology was helpful to you in that situation? Did you see that from any of your…
I don’t know. I think that maybe what was more useful was my whole experience at Howard. I mean, the Howard experience for me is in a lot of ways similar. I learned a lot about people from other countries that I never knew. I had never really met anybody from another country that I really knew. But at Howard I met people from Africa and the Caribbean. I met people from Kansas that I didn’t know. I didn’t know that any Black people lived in Minneapolis. I met people from Minneapolis. I met people from California. For me it was a real opening experience where I met and learned stuff that I just had no real experience about. Most of what I knew about most things was from television. I saw something on

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television and I thought that was the real world in a lot of ways. And it’s not. So I think that the experience at Howard, professors teaching different things, learning about Pan-Africanism, learning about Africa. During that time in the early to middle ‘60s many African nations were becoming independent of their European, shrugging off colonialism, or whatever you want to call it. Learning a lot about that and what those struggles were like. So, it sort of widened my perspective about a lot of things. About people. About how people might be the same and how people are different. Why the struggle of the Ghanaians was real similar to the struggle of Black people in this country. And, why the struggle of any colonialized people is really, there are a lot of analogs. So I think a lot of it had to do with that. And then the energy that young people, students both domestic and international brought to trying to make change. There’s that enthusiasm of youth when you are not smart enough really to know that some of the stuff you want to do you can’t do. But you try anyway. A lot of that was from that experience. Obviously, some of the substantive stuff courses you take, psychology and I took comparative religion courses which I thought were very useful to me because, again it gave me a broader view. I grew up as a Baptist. At one point, my family (my mother’s relatives) thought I was going to be a minister and they were really focusing on this getting me to be a minister thing and I didn’t want to do that. So, I learned a lot about other religions and how they approached the whole God thing and interactions with humans here on the planet. It was a great, great experience for me. That’s what I was saying before about the law school — it was a cocoon — it was an environment that I needed to be in. I was

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not done certainly by the time I graduated from undergrad. I was not ready to go out into the real world and to confront a lot of issues that I hadn’t had a chance to sort of sort through my own brain. Law school might have been a disaster. I might not have met a guy like Clay Smith who said “Look, this is what you need to do.” He was somebody who looked like me and I sorted of knew intuitively he wanted me to be successful and that’s why he was telling me this. He wasn’t particularly pleasant to hear but I thought it was coming from a very positive place. I might not have taken that from somebody who meant the exact same thing but who happened not to look like me. I might of said, I’m not doing that.” So, the Howard experience was really, really very important to me and I am eternally grateful for that experience. I think many times that my life would have been a whole different thing had I not had the opportunity to attend Howard University in that window from ’65 to ’72. I think it was very critical for me and shaped a lot of ideas that I sort of later developed more fully. About service. About what my obligation is as a person to the collective group of people, Black and White.

So, all that was going on in my head when I’m down there in Mississippi and that’s part of what drove me to Mississippi. I had to. I mean I couldn’t not get more directly involved. Law school was “Okay this is why I’m doing this.” So I had to go. And, my good friend Gil Ray who did not go said, “You are out of your mind.” Gil was probably right but I had to go. I had a good experience with that. So, then I left that and came back and threw myself back into school trying to catch up. They started these crazy interviews to law firms because by then the

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law firms, guilt or whatever, they discovered that Howard Law School was the place to hire Black lawyers so they would come and recruit. Because I was the managing editor of the law review, I looked like a likely candidate for a lot of them. So, I got a chance to go to New York for a couple of interviews. I got to go to Chicago, Jenner and Block flew me out there to get a couple of interviews. So I got to go to some different cities for a change. I think I went to Detroit, Chicago and New York for interviews. And then I interviewed with a couple of firms here. And, ultimately decided not to go to work for any of them. I went to work that summer for the U.S. Attorneys Office. (Laughs)

And where was that?
Here in D.C.
Here in D.C.
Yeah that was fun.
It’s so interesting that you were down in Greenwood Mississippi in the Delta doing all that work and then you come back and you’re flying to Jenner and Block for interviews in New York and these corporate firms, and you know, even the Attorney General’s Office in D.C. How was the world any different for you when you came back from Mississippi? Maybe another way to ask the question is, how were you different after coming back from Mississippi? Or, were you? What I knew when I left Mississippi was that I wanted to be a litigator. I was absolutely convinced that I wanted to be a litigator. Because I had to be in a courtroom trying to get things straightened out. So the idea of talking to these law firms was “maybe I could learn to be a litigator there.” I would up working at the

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U.S. Attorneys Office because I realized that was the quickest path to a courtroom on my own. I realized that in the big corporate law firms they had litigation, but young lawyers like myself never actually wound up in court. We’re over here doing all this scut work and you never actually wound up in a courtroom, except maybe to bring something to the lawyer, the partner who was trying it because he saying “I forgot it can you go get it, take it down there to him.”

(Laughs) Yeah.
So Mississippi said to me “I want to be a litigator. I want to go to court and punch their lights out.” So I came back and I interviewed with those law firms. Now, interviewing with law firms was a kind of a bifurcated decision. They were all chasing the same two or three guys in class. Okay, and I was under some pressure, internal mostly, to make sure that the law school had a relatively good showing. That people who could walk and talk and chew gum at the same time actually got interviewed. So I went sort of out of a sense of loyalty that “Okay, I had this good GPA, I was the managing editor so maybe I ought to go.” But also, I was trying to figure out what is it you guys really do. There were sort of two purposes. But at the end of the day, from talking to people like Luke Moore (who ultimately became a judge here and died not too long ago), Bill Bryant (who is a federal judge here).
Were these your teachers?
They taught me trial practice. Teachers. And some of the other professors who were also litigators. I just figured out that I think the quickest way to a courtroom for me is to be an Assistant United States Attorney and get to court and get a lot

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of trial experience. Also I had sort of become convinced that there were huge numbers of Black people in the criminal justice system being prosecuted and there were very few Black prosecutors. So I figured this was a way I could make some difference there too. This is all part of a larger strategy to get out of the Air Force because at this point in law school I have a commission in the United States Air Force. I have what is called an educational deferment which means I don’t have to go to Air Force except to now and then put on my uniform. But, mostly, I’m not in the Air Force, but at the end of law school I’m going to have to go in the Air Force, arguably, to be a lawyer but there was no guarantee. Their idea was, see because they told me that with this degree in psychology I could be a transportation officer or mortuary officer. And, I didn’t want to do that. So, I said “Well, I’ll go to law school.” They said “Okay you can go to law school but we can’t guarantee you you’ll be a lawyer.” I said, “Well, you know, I’ll take my chances. I figure if I got a law degree it’s going to be tough for you guys to say no.” My strategy was maybe I could figure out a way to, if I get a job in the U.S. Attorneys Office, maybe I could trade government service for government service and not go on active duty. So, that was all part of my thinking. That’s part of the reason why I wound up in the U.S. Attorneys Office that summer between my second and third year. I enjoyed that. I worked in the appellate division. I worked in the grand jury intake and I worked for a felony division prosecutor. A guy named Bob Shuker who also became a judge and a friend, trying a case and working as a sort of paralegal, a glorified paralegal for him in this big case he was trying. I liked that. I said “This is good. This is what I want to do.” So, I was

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going to be an Assistant U.S. Attorney and did get a job offer to be an assistant U.S. attorney by the time I graduated from law school but the Air Force was not real keen on that. What I did was, after I finished the law clerk or whatever they call it (summer thing at the U.S. Attorney’s Office), I came back to law school and I was trying to figure out what to do. I was working on the law journal and the National Conference and all that kind of crazy stuff. The Vice Dean came to me one day and said “Look I need you to go talk to a guy who is going to be a judge on the D.C. Superior Court. He needs a law clerk and wants to get somebody who graduated from Howard and he wants to get a Howard law student to be his law clerk. He wants to interview somebody to be a law clerk. And, I think clerkship’s a good thing.” So I’m thinking “Well, yeah okay, maybe I should clerk for a year.” You know after I get out of law school. Get some more figuring out what’s going on in the courtroom kind of experience. So I agree to meet with Judge Draper. This is really like November or December. So, I meet with him, who was at that time not Judge Draper but was about to be Judge Draper. Nice guy who had graduated from the law school class of ’47 or ’48, had been general counsel of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, was a good personal friend of then Senator Thomas Eagleton who was the force behind him getting nominated to be a judge in the Superior Court. So he says “I think I am going to be nominated shortly. I think I am going to be sworn in shortly after that. I need a clerk. I want to hit the ground running, and I want to talk with people now.” I go “Well, you know I graduate in June and I’ll take the bar in July so I am ready to get going in August.” He said, “No, no, no. I want you to get

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going in January.” I thought “January…I’m still in school.” He says “Bah, go work it out.” So I go work it out. He interviews a couple more people and says “Look I want you to do it. I think you’re the best guy.” So I agree to do it. So my senior year I am law clerking. I got the National Council of Law Reviews, managing editor of the law journal and I’m law clerking. I am just like crazy. Wow.

I am having this insane life and, but a lot of fun. Because the judge is one of those guys who believes that the clerk ought to be in court with him. So, I’m in court with the judge. I am sitting there in the witness chair sometimes or sometimes in the other chair and seeing what’s going on. He’s critiquing lawyers after court and I am learning a lot. He is a very, very good guy. So I graduate in June.
And the year again?
’72. I began in January ’72, probably the middle of it, and graduated in June 1972 and he asked me to stay for the next year. I said “Cool.” I’m having a great time so I stay until the following June.
You clerked in that court for 18 months?
18 months. In that 18 months, I see the guys at the U.S. Attorneys Office and some others. And, that’s when they offered me a job. They say, “When you finish your clerkship, we want you to come to the office and be an assistant U.S. attorney.” I go, “Great this is wonderful.” And, the judge, I am sure, put in a good word for me so it all works out. In the course of the year I was clerking for the judge I try to resign my commission. I say to the Air Force “Eh, thanks but I

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don’t really need this.” And the Air Force says “No you can’t resign, please see the contract you signed.” I go “But guys I got stuff to do” and they go “Oh, no, no, no.” So, the last time I try to resign the Air Force (Laughs) never send me a letter [reply letter] back, they just put my letter back in an envelope and send my letter back (laughing). So, I sort of get the message that they are not going to let me resign. I am sort of telling the guys at the U.S. Attorneys Office I really don’t think I can get out of this, but they say they’re going to try to get me out through whatever influence they can through the Department of Justice. Now, meanwhile, my dad has for years worked for the Department of the Navy, for the Navy Judge Advocate General. I know this but I don’t really know this. So, one day I’m talking to my dad about this Air Force thing and how I really want to be an assistant U.S. attorney and I have to get out of this. So, he says “well, maybe I can talk to Admiral Starling.” I go “Admiral Starling?” He says “He’s the Navy Judge Advocate General, maybe you should meet with him.”

Do you know Starling’s first name?
Marlon or Merlin, I forget…Marlon or Merlin Starling. He said “You need to meet with him. Maybe he could figure out a way for you to go into the Navy Reserve and you don’t have to go on active duty. You could be in the Navy Reserve office.” And, I go “Yeah, that’s cool.” So he arranges a lunch for me with Admiral Starling and some Navy captain. We had a great lunch. Starling is wonderful and he says “You know you got this military commitment.” I go “Yeah yeah yeah blah blah blah.” He says, “Okay I’ll tell you what I’ll do. Why don’t you apply for an InterService Transfer. Transfer from the Air Force to the

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Navy. And we will work out an assignment for you that you really like. Or, we’ll get you in the Navy Reserve.” I say “Cool.” You know, I have this obligation and I don’t care whether it’s the Army, whether it’s the Navy or Air Force really. Mind you, the Air Force has not told me yet that I’m going to be a lawyer there. They had told me that they want me in the Air Force and sort of intimated that I would be in the JAG but they hadn’t really put me in the JAG department.

Now, is all of this happening as you’re finishing your clerkship?
Oh yeah, well yeah. This is really happening in the spring of ’73. So I meet with Admiral Starling and he’s really pretty cool. I am coming back from the meeting and I tell my dad “I’m feeling pretty pretty chipper. I think this is going to work out. Either I’ll get to go to a really cool place or I’ll be in the Navy Reserve.” Now, you have to remember that the Navy at that point had about 750-880 active duty Navy lawyers. Three of them were Black. They were having all these racial incidents on these ships and naval stations so they needed Black lawyers big time. So, that’s why Starling really wanted me. And that was okay. I mean, I was cool with that. So, a couple of weeks to a month later I get a phone call from the Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Office. A guy named Cheney, General Cheney, but he had some colonel actually call me. The colonel says “The General wants to meet with you.” I go “Okay.” So I meet with the General and this colonel guy and they said “Look, you had lunch with my good friend Marlon. I said “Yeah, he’s a great guy.” He says “Marlon tells me you want to transfer to the Navy.” I said “Yeah, yeah, you know seems like a good thing to do.” He says “Well Lieutenant, I’m going to tell you what I told Marlon. Marlon if you want a Black

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JAG you have to grow your own. This one belongs to me.” (Laughter) I say, “What?!” He said “Lieutenant you aren’t going anywhere. You’re going to be an Air Force Judge Advocate.” I go, “Well, I have plans.” So he says “Look as an accommodation, I know Admiral Starling made you some kind of deal, what do want from us? Where can we send you where you will be happy?” Now the Air Force had 1200-1300 JAGs, 25 of whom are Black. Okay, so he needs me too. So he’s like “Where do you want to go?” I go “Well, I don’t know.” At that point the really weird thing was that my mother was sick. She was dying of cancer (although we did not know that at the time). So, I say to the General. I’d like to be some place where I can, you know in the area, so that I can get back home quick. I tell him at first that I don’t want to go someplace where it’s cold. I don’t want to go to Minnesota. I don’t want to go to South Dakota. I don’t want to go to Utah. I don’t want to go to those places. He says, “Well, okay.” So, he tells me that I can go to Cocoa Beach, Florida because it is in the Air Force Systems Command which is the same command that Andrews Air Force Base is in and they have planes going back and forth all the time. So, I could come home on an Air Force flight almost any time. I said, “Cool.” He says, “That’s what we’ll do.” But then he says, “But first you have to get into the JAG program.” I said “I thought I was in the JAG program.” He says, “No, no, no. When you get in this is what’s going to happen (but you’ve got to get in first).” I say “What does that mean?” He says, “Well you have to have some interviews.” So I realize, I say “Well, if I don’t pass the interviews they’re going to put me out.” They tell me I have to go see a guy at Bolling Air Force Base out in Southeast

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Washington. So, I go see this Major and I tell the Major (I go out and I have a big Afro and wearing a dashiki) and I am like real militant. So, I’m hoping that the Major will say “I can’t have this guy here. He’s like too radical.” And, the Major does. The Major says “Ughhh, reject him, reject him, reject him.” So the Major writes that up and when he does that that causes me to have a second interview with a full colonel at Andrews Air Force Base, so I go out there. And, the colonel tells me about the interview report that the Major wrote. He said “The Major didn’t recommend you. The Major thought that you were too rough. But you know what I think? I think it is all a sham.” (Laughs) “I think you want us to put you out. And you know what, I’m not going to let that happen. I am recommending you for assignment to the Judge Advocate General’s department.” I go, “Okay.” (Laughter) So, anyway, he recommends me and that’s how I get in. And, then the General honors his promise and I get sent to Cocoa Beach, Florida. When were you sent to Cocoa Beach Florida?

June 1973. June 28, 1973. I am told to report. So I drive down to Cocoa Beach and show up and report to my duty station for four years. They keep me there for all four years. I am literally in the Air Force four years to the day from the day I show up. Other people I knew had gotten out early. The war in Vietnam had wound down, they needed fewer people especially lawyers, they were letting people go. They would never let me go. And that was sort of okay because I was really having a good time. I had a great time in the Air Force, but they would never let me out despite my requests. So I stayed there literally four years to the day and drove back from Florida. I had a great time in the Air Force. I traveled

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around the country a fair amount. I tried a lot of cases. I worked on the space program. I worked with spies. I did a lot of stuff.
Are there maybe a couple, are there any cases you worked on or experiences in particular that are noteworthy?

Not noteworthy in the grand sense. I tried a lot of cases with guys charged with criminal offenses and got some off. Got some acquitted. The military justice system, at that point, was really pretty unfair to the accused. That is because it was a military operation, it was all integrated and that is to say that convening authority (the person that convened the court martial) also supervised the people who were defending it. They supervised the people that were prosecuting. They chose the jury. I thought that was really, really unfair. If you had career aspirations, then obviously, you didn’t want to make the convening authority unhappy so your ability to defend someone he had decided was under criminal defense was hampered. About halfway through the time I was in the Air Force they changed that and created a separate command structure for the defense team. And, that was a good first step. But I remember when I was Chief of Military Justice at my base, going to the Post Commander who was the convening authority; well, I would go to the Commanding General who is a Major General for general court marshals and for the board of officers who would be there. We had a big computer printout of all the colonels, lieutenant colonels, majors, captains, first and second lieutenants that he could choose from. He would say “Which ones are going to vote to convict them? I want those. I don’t want the ones who are going to let’em go.” So it really had a lot of problems. A lot of

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them had been worked out. But I’ve learned from people that I have talked to since. But it was very tough [Tape 2 ends here].

TAPE #3 – SIDE A

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Mr. Cooke:

OK, I want to go back and ask a little bit more about your childhood. You mentioned a little bit earlier that you were raised Baptist.
Yes.
Would you talk for a few minutes about the role of the church when you were a child and today if you’d like?

Sure. It was a Baptist church. It was almost Pentecostal. I guess a number of my relatives on my mother’s side certainly are more accurately described as Pentecostal as opposed to Baptist — started off Baptist and became Pentecostal, I guess. At a point when I used to go to visit my relatives in North Carolina as a kid, up until the time I was about 12-14 years old, part of the summer experience was to go to vacation Bible School (and obviously church on Sundays and Wednesdays) which is a part of the routine. Out of that activity came the idea on the part of some of my relatives that I was destined to be a preacher. Partly, because I think I had pretty good memory and I could memorize the books of the Bible and the different things I had read from vacation Bible School and church. They thought that that was indicative of my destiny to be a minister and they were really pushing me in that direction. I did not feel that I was called, or that was where I wanted to go. But, I was only 12 or less at that point in time and I was really more under their influence than I might otherwise have been. Ultimately,

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that all broke down by the time I was 12 or 14 someplace in there. When I just complained to my mother that I didn’t really want to do this, that they were making me do something I just didn’t want to do. While church was great and God I believed in and everything I didn’t feel like that was my place, my destiny. So my mother, to her credit, said to them, “Leave him alone, let him go.” So, they stopped pushing me and I didn’t have to do that anymore. By the time I was 14, I was working in a little neighborhood grocery store to make spending money. Sometimes, certainly during the school year, I worked on Sunday because the store was open on Sunday and that was the day that I wasn’t at school or otherwise pretty much occupied. I would try to convince my mother that I didn’t need to go to church that day or didn’t need to take my brothers and sisters to Sunday School before church and needed to work because I was making money doing stuff. My mother who was a lot more progressive than you might have predicted given where she grew up and her education, she was very indulgent is a better word. She said, “You don’t have to do it if you don’t want to but you need to go to church.” So, we wound up with a sort of compromise where I would go to church some days and some Sundays I would work on the store on weekends. Slowly but surely that resulted in my not attending church with any significant frequency with my brothers and sisters and my mother. My father hardly ever went to church. That frequency broke up and by the time I got to college I really wasn’t going to church much at all. Every once in a while maybe out of a year maybe three times, it was very, very rare that I would go to church. But, that led me to sort of look at religion, compare the religions (took some courses). I spent

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some time thinking about converting to Catholicism, spent a lot more time thinking about converting to Islam; but ultimately decided not to convert to any of those and just would sort of not go to church. Although I knew a lot of ministers, that was the interesting thing. In some of the work that I did I would frequently meet ministers. That was one of the reasons that church sort of didn’t work for me. Because I knew a lot of these ministers maybe in ways they didn’t want me to know them. I sort of lost some of the respect I had for organized religion. I sort of like to refer to myself as more spiritual than religious. I think that the time I spent studying Eastern religion or Eastern philosophy and Islam helped me think through the God thing a little bit better for my own personal purposes. So that’s where I sort of wound up being spiritual as opposed to a particular denomination or religion, although I have a lot of relatives who are Pentecostal and very fervent believers in the literal biblical teachings.
But you said your father wasn’t a churchgoer.
No, no not at all.
What was his…?
He was Baptist too.
Did he speak of religion or did he keep pretty tight-lipped about it?
Not much. He was pretty tight-lipped about it. He told us to go to church. It wasn’t just our mother telling us to go. His instructions were we were “going to church with our mother.” He was working. See, that was one of the other things. My father in addition to working as a mail clerk for the Navy Department almost

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all of his government service of 40 odd years, 46 I think when he retired, he also drove a cab here in the city.
On weekends?
Even on weekends. All the time. See, one of the truly odd things about my father and the relationship that he and his children had is often times we would not see my father from Sunday after dinner until the following Saturday morning. He would be up and on his way to work before I got up, and he would come home after I got to bed from driving his cab. So, even though he lived in the house and he would leave these notes, I wouldn’t physically see him sometimes from Sunday after dinner until Saturday morning of that week when he didn’t go to work early (at the government). And, he would get up and start driving his cab at sort of a normal time of 9:00 or 10:00 and I would be up and I would see him. I would see him Saturday morning before he left to drive the cab, he would come back Saturday evening or night. We would see him Saturday for dinner sometimes, most times. We would see him Sunday morning, and we would see him Sunday after dinner and we wouldn’t see him again for the rest of the week. In retrospect it was odd, but we did not think so at the time. On Sunday, he would go drive his cab, but sometimes he would come back to the house to hang out with us, or take us places. But, mostly, his excuse for not going to church was that he was working. So he would take people to church, or wherever, but he wasn’t going to church himself.

Sounds like you. (Laughter)
(Laughter) That’s right. So I am my father’s son in that regard.

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That’s right.
So that’s why it sort of seemed like ‘yeah, that’s a good story to tell.’ So he told us to go to church. He said, “That’s where you need to go” and “You need to do that.” One of his brothers is a very religious guy. In fact, he is a deacon and a lay minister in his church.
And he’s still living?
Yes. All my father’s brothers and sisters are still alive. He is the only one who’s

I’m sorry. Is your mother deceased?
Yes, she is deceased.
Your mother died in?
1974 and my father died in 1999.
Will you state their names again please?
My mother’s name was Annie Leon Ellis Cooke. My father’s name was Frederick Douglas Cooke, Sr.

I want to ask you a few questions about your interests as a child. One question, what were your interests as a child, outside of school?
I liked school a lot. I used to read all kinds of stuff.
What did you like to read?

Oh, everything, I read everything. I would literally read dictionaries and encyclopedias. I would just read them from cover to cover. Not for a course, or to get some school credit. I would just read them. I just thought it was great. Lots of stuff in there. But, I liked to play baseball. I was a pretty good pitcher,

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but I couldn’t hit. I didn’t realize why I couldn’t hit until I was in about the 8th grade. I realized the reason I couldn’t hit was because I couldn’t see the ball. I didn’t realize I couldn’t see the ball. I could see well enough to read. But my vision had already started to get bad. It used to always amaze me how other kids could hit the ball. Because I really never knew where the ball was. I was always guessing, literally guessing. I realized after a while, after I got glasses that you could actually see the ball. (Laughs) And that would help you hit it. But I couldn’t hit, and I didn’t know why. I could pitch because I could see well enough to see the strike zone and I could put the ball there. So, I was a pitcher and I played infield. I was a defensive ball player. I had no ability to hit. So I did that.

I played a little basketball and I really wasn’t very good at basketball. I felt like I was short but I could jump. I could dunk a ball when I was 5’10”. By the time I was in the 11th or 12th grade I could dunk a ball but I had no real basketball skills. I would play with guys, but they would choose me to play as a last resort.
I was like the last guy chosen. I would hang out with guys who really could play basketball. I had some friends who were again mostly older than I was at the time, a year or two or three. They were some really good basketball players. I would go and hang out with them. I would watch their watches and their coats while they played basketball because they wouldn’t let me on the court with them too often. I learned a lot, but I didn’t play. When I was in the Air Force, I was the coach of the base team. I learned a fair amount about basketball because I had coached for 3 out of 4 years that I was in the Air Force.

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And I liked music. I played trumpet. I played electric bass. I played at keyboards but not very much or very well. I was in a little band for a while, but was not very good so I didn’t stay in the band long. But, I liked music. My father was very fond of music and I attribute a lot of my interest in music to him because when he was at home he played music a lot.
What did he play?
Mostly jazz. He liked jazz and I really got into that. At the time, I didn’t think I was. I used to say, “I hate that. Why are you playing that?” I wanted to listen to contemporary music of my time, whether it was James Brown or the Temptations or whatever, Motown. He was like, “Yeah that’s okay but this is better.” He would force us to listen to his music. He built a stereo — Hi-Fi system is what they used to call them in the old days. A lot of it was stuff he sort of built, and so he wouldn’t let us touch it. Who knows why? It was his system, and he played what he wanted to play and you listened to it and that was just the name of that song. So we listened to it a lot. I used to go, “I can’t wait ‘til I get old enough to listen to my own music.” Eventually, I had a little tabletop radio in my room that I could play music that I wanted to hear in my room. But, in the house it was his system. Being my father’s son, when I got to be older that’s what I did to my daughters — I made them listen to my music. (Laughs) I had this great stereo system that I wouldn’t let them touch and I played the music. Except they touched it. See, they were not intimidated as I was. I believed my father would have physically harmed me had I touched his stereo system. I would never touch it. My daughters didn’t believe that I would physically harm them so they would

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touch my stereo system whenever they felt like it. So, when I would come home they would have played all sorts of music. I would ask them, “How did this get on here?” They would respond that they did not know I knew that it had been one of them, but they were not intimidated as I had been, which was a good thing.

Did you ever go listen to live music in DC when you were young?
Oh sure. When I was an older teenager and in college I used to go to the Howard Theater and listen to music, contemporary music mostly James Brown, Motown, and other R&B acts. The Cellar Door used to be a place here in town that played music when I was in college. Blues Alley, Mr. Henry’s, the Bohemian Caverns and places like that would have live music. I would go to those places and hear live music. The Carter Barron Amphitheater in the summertime, outdoor kind of concerts.
Where is that?
It’s up 16th & Kennedy Streets NW Washington. They have outdoor concerts in the summertime. Most of them are free. Some of them you pay a small amount, but I sometimes went there. You could hear opera there. I played classical trumpet so I used to listen to a lot of classical music which is I enjoyed. I used to play classical trumpet. When I learned how to play, I was not taught popular music. I was taught classical trumpet. I played popular music because that what I felt more comfortable with. But, I was taught to be a classical trumpet player. Was that by choice?
No.
Did your parents force you to take lessons?

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Yes. They told me that I was going to take lessons. I told them I wanted to play the trumpet. They said “Great.” My teacher (and the teacher was really through the public school system) taught classical trumpet. My parents bought me a trumpet and I practiced and played classical trumpet. I used to try to play jazz kind of pieces. My father would play Buck Clayton, and I learned to play some of the parts of Buck Clayton’s LPs by ear because my father would play them. I had a good enough ear that I could hear the notes and I would try to imitate it on my trumpet and I could play that. That was great, that was fun. One of the best parts of playing trumpet was to be able to get to the point where one, I could read music – that was great; but, then to be able to play by ear – to hear it and know what note it was and then be able to replicate it, that was a lot of fun. I did that for a while. But, as it turned out I really wasn’t that good of a trumpet player so I stopped by the time I was about 15 or so. I played trumpet from the time I was in about the 4th or 5th grade to about 10th grade and I didn’t play anymore. I didn’t play anything anymore except piano that I picked up from just hanging around people who played music. I could play a little bit. We didn’t have a piano in the house so when I would see a piano I would just try to play. Then I became a much more avid listener and went to hear music and enjoy music as a fan.

Did your mother work outside the home when you were a child?
Intermittently. Mostly, she worked in the home. Periodically, she would work outside the home as a domestic for different people. I remember she did that for a few years. I don’t think she really (clearly they could have used the money) but I don’t think she saw herself as anything other than a homemaker. She was very

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concerned with what was going on with her children and whether they were okay. Whether they were okay physically and in terms of getting school work done. So she really didn’t like being away from home. She wanted to be there when we came home. She was sort of like the neighborhood mom. All the kids in the neighborhood came to our house because my mom was just very welcoming to them. She didn’t have a lot of rules that you couldn’t violate. So you could come and hang out.

(interjecting) Right, unnecessary rules.
That’s right. So she was very welcoming to the kids. She was the kind of person that all the kids called her “Mom.” That was just what she liked to do. She was very good at it. She did work outside the home for infrequent periods of times, I recall, she worked outside of the home like I said as a domestic because she didn’t have any other skills. Some of her sisters, my aunts, came from that little town in North Carolina, came to Washington to live.
Were you generally healthy growing up? Did you have any illnesses or anything out of the ordinary, not in good health?
No. I had the luck of good health. I used to injure myself as a kid — broke a finger stuff like that, stabbed myself in my hand (the umbrella was broken and one of the sprockets did that) but mostly I was perfectly healthy.
Okay. Well, I wanted to return now to your time in the Air Force. If we could start with you telling us what your ranks were that would be good for the record. Sure. I was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Air Force in June 1969 when I got my bachelor’s degree. Then I got the educational deferment and after about

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two years they told me that I had been promoted to 1st Lieutenant. And, then two years later when I went on active duty in the Judge Advocate General Department I was promoted to captain. I was a captain for four years until I got out of the Air Force in June of 1977. But just before I got out, they were trying to convince me to stay in and they were going to promote me to major if I agreed to stay. And I told them “No.” I was leaving so I didn’t get that promotion (Laughs).

Nice try.
That’s right. Nice try. I told them, I said “look, if you promote me to colonel I’ll stay but otherwise I’m out of here.” (Laughter)
So you were stationed in Cocoa Beach all four years?
Yes I was stationed at Patrick Air Force Base in Cocoa Beach, Florida from June ’73 to June ’77. I was stationed there permanently, although I was sent temporarily to a number of different places around the country and to the Bahamas. (Laughs)
(Laughs) Awful place to be. Would you say that’s where you learned how the nuts and bolts of being a lawyer?
No. I think I learned the nuts and bolts of being a lawyer from Judge Draper (?) when I was clerking. I think the good thing about the Air Force was that it was the first opportunity I had to be on my own as a lawyer and to make some of that stuff that Judge Draper taught me work. As I tell people, young people in law school especially, the military can be a good experience for you, but the thing you’ve got to remember is first and foremost that you’re an officer in the United States Air Force or military and you happen to be a lawyer. Because of that the

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institutional mentality is that when you become a captain you are assumed to have certain capabilities. The Air Force assumes that you can do certain things. As a captain, the Air Force turns you loose to do your job. They tell you that this is your job, do it. Your career rises or falls based on your ability to get the job done. That was a very scary, but also a very good growth experience because you don’t get hand held a lot, you get to do it. So, when it’s your case to try, it’s your case to try and you try it. And, when it’s your legal matter to resolve, it’s your legal matter to resolve and that’s just the name of that song. It was pretty cool. I got a chance to be on my own and to figure out whether stuff I learned or thought that I had I learned worked or not. That was the good part of it. The bad part of it, obviously, is that you could get yourself into some trouble and develop some bad habits because there was not a lot of close supervision. If you wind up doing something pretty screwy, and keep doing it that way and you sort of get away with it, you develop that bad habit too. But, I had some pretty good people around me who were willing to tell me when I was outside the lines and tried to reel me in. I enjoyed the Air Force. I thought it was a good experience. I was surprised, but I enjoyed it.

So you left the Air Force in 1977?
Yeah. In June 1977.
What next?
I had been doing a lot of different things in the Air Force. I had been in the Air Force for a total of eight years at that point. It really was a decision point for me because the Air Force wanted to send me to Ramstein Air Force Base in

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Germany. They were going to promote me to major and I had to agree to go to Ramstein for four years. And, if I agreed to go to Ramstein for four years they would promote me to major, as they call it “below the zone.” Typically, I wouldn’t have been eligible for promotion to major until the next year. But, they were going to promote me to major, send me to Ramstein and I would then come back from Ramstein four years later as a major. And, maybe if I did well, eligible to be promoted to lieutenant colonel. At that point, I would have been 12 years in the Air Force and at that point it would have made little sense to get out because I was more than half way to 20 years, and why flush 12 years down the drain if you’ve only got 8 years left to make 20 and get your pension. So, I declined the offer to go to Ramstein because I don’t think I wanted to stay in the Air Force for 20 years. I really had mixed feelings about that decision because when I first went in all I wanted was out. Literally, you could wake me up at 3:30 in the morning and ask me how many days I had left in the Air Force and I could tell you with absolute certainty. I was counting the days from the day I got in, I knew how many days I had left to do. But, I enjoyed it, and I was surprised that I enjoyed it.

I got out and when I was in law school one of the jobs I had was working for this law firm called Dow Lohnes and Albertson (unintelligible Tape #3 Side A @339) as a law clerk.
I’m sorry could you repeat the name?

Dow Lohnes and Albertson. I worked there because the guy who was of in charge of the law clerk program at the time, a guy named Daniel Toohey, believed

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that the firm ought to recruit from all the law schools in the city. He sort of insisted that each school have at least one of the clerkships. So I got the Howard seat from a guy who had graduated. For me the firm, that job at the law firm was really just a way to pay the rent and other expenses. I had no real sense of any future there. I did a pretty good job, I guess. When I was clerking for Judge Draper, I stayed in contact with the guys at the firm, and I would see them in court or just around. When I was in the Air Force, I stayed in contact with Dan Toohey. So, when it became apparent that I was leaving the Air Force Dan Toohey asked if I would consider working for the firm.” I said, “Okay, I don’t have a job.” I hadn’t really thought about it, and this was like within the last year or 9 months of my time in the Air Force. I came back here, home. Within a week to 10 days I started working at the law firm. The day I show up, I am asked what department I wanted to work in They knew I had been a litigator most of the time that I was in the Air Force. They asked if I wanted to be a litigator, or go into our litigation section. I said “No, I think I’ve done enough litigation for now and I would like to learn something different.” I was asked about my interest in telecommunications, and what I knew about that. I told Dan that I own a radio and a television, and was that good enough. (Laughter) So that is how I became a telecommunications lawyer.
I began to do telecommunications work, intellectual property work, and higher education work because those things all tied together because a lot of our telecommunications clients had intellectual property issues as a part of developing programming. A number of our clients who owned radio/TV stations

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were educational institutions so they sort of all fit together a little bit. So, I began to do that kind of stuff and that was a lot of fun. Just coincidentally, when I arrived at the firm that fall the Commission (FCC) released its Minority Ownership Task Force Report that talked about how the FCC would institute policies to increase the number of minority-owned radio and TV stations across the United States. The reason that was good luck was because among the various policies that the FCC launched was a program called “distress sales” for radio and TV station licensees, who got in trouble with the FCC for rules violations and were in jeopardy of losing their licenses or having them revoked. If the license was revoked, the licensee’s entire investment would be lost. Such licensees could, instead of going through a process that could result in a license revocation, could agree to transfer the license to a minority owner for 75%of the fair market value of their station. Basically, you were being fined 25% of the value of your station, but you got to get that 75% as opposed to zero. Some of our clients would get in trouble from time-to-time. There was just a certain percentage that would do that. They would then start looking for somebody to buy their station under the distress sale program who was a racial or ethnic minority. Being a racial and ethnic minority [myself] and knowing some minority people who were interested in the telecommunications business created an opportunity for me to connect some of my firm clients with the new clients who were Black., We did a number of those distress sales in the late 70’s (’78, ’79,’80). It was great fun because I was doing more than regulatory work. I was also doing transactional work with the buying and selling piece and the M&A work. So, it was a lot of

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fun. We did a couple of those and more, as it turned out later on — until the policy went away. That was the Reagan Administration, I think, that killed all that. But, until then it was a great ride. So I did that and like I said a number of colleges owned radio and TV stations around the country. In 1978 or ’79 the Copyright Revision Act of 1976 went into effect and it changed the copyright law of the United States that had previously existed. That launched me into another area of specialty where I went around the country giving lectures talking about what the new copyright law meant to, in this case, schools and colleges and Universities. There was a huge problem in the previous copyright law where schools and colleges and university professors were photocopying huge quantities of material from copyrighted books and providing as handouts for classes and the authors would get nothing for this. The professor shows up and says, “Okay, this is the textbook and these are the additional readings.” And, a stack of additional readings this high and they’re all chapters out of different books. The copyright holder’s getting bubkes for this, and this is going on in the academic environment. Copyright holders knew it was happening, and couldn’t stop it. The Copyright Revision Act was designed correct that, to make the professors behave, and to give the Universities some affirmative obligation to prohibit it so that these copyright holders could be paid for their works that were being used. We traveled around giving lectures about that, and colleges and universities could implement compliance programs. That was quite interesting, for me at least. We did other stuff for higher education issues generally. The federal government had a large program for providing some funding for colleges and universities to fund their

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telecommunications programs infrastructure for distance learning via television. The federal government would allow you to put in proposals for grants to get funding for various facilities that would allow that to happen. We shepherded a lot of those facilities’ grant applications through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Telecommunications Information Administration that were responsible for these grants. Again, that was interesting. I did that from basically ’78 to ’87.

Were there a few people who you worked with a lot? If you could go in

Yeah. The guy I worked with mostly was a guy named Daniel Toohey who was at Dow Lohnes who was older than me and was a partner already and was my mentor. A guy named Lenny Baxt who is still at the firm. Lenny and I were associates who came in the same year. I worked with Lenny a lot. Bill Perry who was there and, again was a partner, was kind of a mentor to me. The firm was founded in 1917. And, when I was hired in 1977 I was the first Black lawyer they had ever hired. In 1982 I was the first Black partner they ever had.

It was a good bunch of guys. We got along. I enjoyed going to work every day, and I enjoyed the people and the work I did. It was a lot of fun. It was just a little odd environment. It was kind of schizophrenic. I used to tell people all the time that because I was the only Black lawyer in the firm in a city that was predominantly Black, and when I went home most of my friends were not White. So, the only time I saw White people was at work. (Laughter). This was like

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really weird. It was kinda schizoid, not in a negative way. It was always sort of like ‘Why is this?”
How old were you in 1978 when you started there?
31.

You were born ’49?
I was born in ’47 so it’s got to be 30.
You know, I don’t think I asked your birth date.
May 26th. This Saturday.
This Saturday?
Yeah.
1947.
‘47. Yeah so I was 30.
So you were 31 when you started?
Yeah, yeah, I had just turned 30 because I started in July. So I was 30 and I did that and I had a great time. The firm was very supportive of all kinds of civil rights stuff and of things I did, I met lots of people. I had met before I started with the firm, before I even went in the Air Force, I had met and become a friend of Jesse Jackson. Jesse is a good friend of mine.
How did you meet Jesse Jackson? Do you remember?
Just doing crazy civil rights stuff. Just doing crazy stuff and met the Reverend who became a client and to this day is a client. A very complex guy, but a client and a good friend. I met a lot of people like that. Percy Sutton, in New York, became a client when I was at the firm and I helped Mr. Sutton in some of his

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cable television endeavors. We pursued a cable television franchise in Detroit, Chicago, Queens NY and Washington DC. We only won in one place and that was in Queens. Although, we won here but we got hosed here. Politics got us. We lost in Chicago. We probably should have won in Detroit, but we came up short.

Could you elaborate a little bit on this pursuit?
On the pursuit of cable television?
Cable television franchises, yes.
In the early ‘80s cable television came to urban America in ways it had never come before. It had been a rural experience because that was the only way people in rural America could get television was through community antenna television. You put up a big antenna, you get the signals, you run it through a wire into your house because your TV antenna on your roof won’t get it for you. Then, the cable companies once they sort of got rural, suburban America under control decided that the real numbers, the real market was in the cities. And, most cities didn’t have cable. They began in earnest to try to convince city officials to award cable franchises in urban areas. That just turned into a frenzy.

My law firm represented a number of cable television operators, what used to be called ‘multiple system operators’ (large cable companies). Cox Cable out of Atlanta being one of them and there were others. I worked very closely with Cox Cable for a while. We were buying and selling cable systems all across America. One of the ideas was to consolidate. Instead of having a bunch of franchises all over the place, to try to consolidate as much as you could around one location and

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realize certain economies of scale and have a better operation. We were selling here and buying there all over the place. That was a lot of fun. I, traveled all around the country doing that and really freaking people out because they never saw Black lawyers who would show up for these things. They would be like “you can’t be the lawyer for Cox” [and, I would respond] “yes I am.”

When I was in the Air Force, one time, this master sergeant who was a career guy, 30 years’ service in the Air Force aircraft maintenance squadron. He was the first sergeant and from some place in the South, I don’t remember [exactly] now. I had been talking to his boss who was a lieutenant colonel and commander of the aircraft maintenance squadron. We were having a bunch of disciplinary issues. I was helping them through those. The squadron commander tells me one day to come over at 10:00, “We’re gonna talk about XYZ.” I said “Yes sir.” I go over to the colonel’s office, the squadron office and outside the colonel’s office is the first sergeant — that’s where he sat. Usually he was the gatekeeper. I tell him that I am Captain Cooke, and that I am here to see colonel so and so.” The sergeant says “Yes, sir” and he tells the colonel who comes out and says ‘Wait a few minutes I’ll be with you.” I am sitting next to the sergeant’s desk waiting, twiddling my thumbs and the sergeant looks at me and says, “Captain, I’ve been in the Air Force almost 30 years, I ain’t never seen a Black JAG!” (Laughter). I said, “Get used to it sergeant.” (Laughter)

Here’s one!
But, he became a really good ally and a very cool guy. Because he was very military. His whole deal was it does not make any difference how I feel about

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you. What is important is that you are a captain, and I am a sergeant. You get to tell me what to do within certain parameters and that’s how we work. He was very cool. He was a good guy, I got along fine with him. But, I got the same sort of experience in this cable business. The cable business was notoriously devoid of minorities and women. It just did not exist, at least then, this is 1980, ’82, ‘83, ’85. It just didn’t exist. So, when I would show up people would go, “Who the hell is he?” “Are you an installer? What are you doing here?” And, I would say “No, I am the lawyer.”

And, so would you just feel that?
Oh no, people would say that to you. Oh yeah, they would say it to you. I went to a hearing once with a client, an FCC field hearing in Los Angeles. It was held in a federal courthouse, I forget which one, in Los Angeles (downtown Los Angeles). The hearing starts at like 9:30 in the morning so I get there 9:00, 9:15. I’m one of the first or second people there and we are sort of sitting there. I am sitting there with my little briefcase, actually, I have a litigation bag. Another lawyer is sitting there and it is like five parties. Another lawyer comes in and it’s getting close to 9:30. He comes in and he says to me, “Mister court reporter you’re gonna have to set the equipment up over there because that way you will be able to hear everybody.” I’m like [thinking to myself] “Why do I have to be the court reporter?” You know, I am the only Black guy in the room, but I’m the court reporter? What is that? So the other guy who was there by the time I had gotten there, we had talked and he knew I was a lawyer, he was like [thinking maybe] “I don’t want to be involved in this.” (Laughter) It was great! And stuff

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like that would happen all the time. When I was doing this cable stuff it was like they were totally flummoxed. They were like “Who the hell is he?” But, they were always okay. It wasn’t like they were hostile–hostile. It was just like surprised. What was that about? So, we would go around and do these things all over the place — Eureka, CA, Redwood CA, little small towns in Tennessee, where cable companies were. First, those cities didn’t have any significant indigenous Black populations anyway and then, just the mindset was that you can’t be representing Cox Communications because they are in Atlanta and they don’t hire Black people in that company. The Cox people were just wonderful people. They were not, there was no evident discrimination or discomfort with the fact that I was representing them on whatever issues I was representing them on. Including, I was not the only lawyer representing them because they were a huge part of the firm’s business. They were cool. They were like, “Hey fine, you are our lawyer, let’s do it. What is the advice? Or, what do you think about this?” And, in fact, Bob Wright, the guy who is now in charge of NBC Universal, ran Cox Cable for a good part of the time when I was working with Cox. Bob and I got to be good friends. He went to UVA and he was a very good guy. Just a really, really good human being. So, I would see Bob in different places and he would say, “How are they treating ya?” Bob was from New York and he was always saying, “How are they treating ya?” And, I would say, “Bob, they’re doing fine, it’s not a problem.” (Laughter) He was always a little bit suspicious as to what some of his Southern brethren might be doing. I would say “Bob, they’re all fine. I have no issues.” And, I didn’t. They were good people, a

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quality operation. I’m sure some people there didn’t like me, but I don’t think it had too much to do with the fact that I was Black. It was because I was a lawyer telling them they couldn’t do something they wanted to do. That was fine. That happens all the time.

So, you are a lawyer (Laughs)
Yeah that’s right. I am a lawyer so you know that sort of worked. So, we ran around doing cable stuff. In Detroit we went out to apply for the cable franchise out there with Mr. Sutton. As the sort of principal partner, Mr. Sutton hired Cox to be his technical expertise partner, and he was the political clout in Detroit. We hooked up with a local group in Detroit, the Bell family, who put the second Black owned and operated radio station in the country in the air in Detroit — WCHB. They had been there for a long time, this Detroit family with some money and political clout. And, that’s why we hooked up with them. So we went out to Detroit and we filed a proposal. In Detroit, as in most cities, you had to go through a kind of series of dog and pony shows with community groups to persuade them that they should support you and what benefits as a cable operator you were going to bring to their communities as a result of being awarded a franchise. We did that and we went around the city with the Bell family and Mr. Sutton and the Cox people. We talked all over. I think we had a very good proposal. We really did, it was well done. We ultimately lost to a guy named Don Bardon who was a local Detroit guy. He had hooked up with another cable television company at the time TCI (which I think no longer really exists, it has become most of what Comcast is, what TCI was), I think at least. But, anyway he

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hooked up with them and they were big guys at the time and they ultimately won. They had better politics. At one large public event where the Cable Television Design Commission was receiving public testimony from groups that we had gone out to talk to and were in turn coming to say what they thought was good, bad or indifferent about the proposals they had seen. In Detroit, because it could only happen in Detroit, a group of guys got up to give their presentation and they sang their presentation. Much like the Temptations would. They had steps and they were singing and moving. And I was like “Oh my God this is great.” They weren’t supporting us. We were very upset about that, but it was a great show (Laughter). So we wound up losing in Detroit and that was a tough loss to take because we had a really good proposal. We should’ve won, but we lost on politics. Almost all these decisions are at bottom political. We lost in Chicago because we just weren’t as good as the other guys, I don’t believe. We won 1/3 of Queens, we had good politics and a good proposal. We really won here in D.C., but we lost at the end because politics reared its ugly head and zapped us. But, we had the best proposal. We won every recommendation from every group, the design commission recommended us. The only thing that killed us was we lost by one vote in the council. It was literally one council member waiting to see which way the wind was blowing. He skipped his vote and when they came back around he cast his vote for the other side. So, the other side won. It was tied until his vote.

So we did that with Mr. Sutton. I did a lot of stuff with Cox around the country as well as some other cable companies. One of our cable companies, I remember,

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one day the guy who ran our cable section, a guy named Jack Matthews who was just an amazing guy. Jack was totally politically incorrect. He just couldn’t help himself, but he was a good guy. He had a good heart, but Jack just couldn’t always get where the world was as opposed to where it had been. So, one day a woman named, Donna Gregg Donna worked for Jack.

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But, anyway, Donna is working with these cable guys. She worked for Jack and these cable guys. When they found out that Donna was their lawyer, they said they wouldn’t work with her. They didn’t want a woman lawyer. And, so, we were all concerned that Jack would accede to this to this demand. You know, tell Donna that she couldn’t work on the account. But, Jack, to his credit, told the client to take a hike. He said, “Look, she’s your lawyer and if you don’t want her for your lawyer, you don’t want me for your lawyer. You’ve got a choice. You can work with Donna or you can find a new law firm.” And, that’s the kind of place it was. They were really good people. He was a good-hearted guy. He had been in the Navy and he was a miniaturist, he used to collect miniature soldiers. He had thousands of them in dioramas he had built. It was interesting. One day Jack and I are talking and Jack asks me what do I know about South Africa. I answered that I knew the political stuff, about Nelson Mandela and the struggle. Jack then tells me the story of the Battle of Rorke’s Drift and he has created a diorama about the Battle of Rorke’s Drift. He gives me a book called The Red Soldier, this about the Battle of Rorke’s Drift where more British soldiers were

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awarded the Victoria Cross than any other engagement in the history of the British Army. It’s really very interesting. He gives me a bunch of “little guys” as he calls them. These little British soldiers that he has hand-painted all these guys. These British soldiers in various poses and these Zulu in various poses with shields and assegai which are the short spears they used. He knows all about this stuff. He is telling me about it and it’s really quite fascinating. I’m like, “Jack, where do you find time?” But he had a house where he had two or three rooms in his house, nothing but these little guys — drove his wife nuts. He retired and moved to Kiawa Island. I don’t know if Jack’s still alive. I haven’t seen Jack in years and years. He was a good guy, a little eccentric, but a good guy.
So we did that cable stuff around the country. Buying and selling systems and buying and selling radio and TV stations. I got to work with Gale Sayers who is a hero of mine who was part of a group who bought a number of television stations. I got to work with Reverend Jackson, both for and against Reverend Jackson which is really weird. He was protesting certain activities or non-activities on radio stations which had to do with hiring practices or programming stuff and trying to change policies at the FCC. I met a lot of political guys. Harold Washington, the Mayor of Detroit, the Mayor of Cleveland, Wilson Goode out of Philadelphia, Percy Sutton of New York, David Dinkins of New York, Tom Bradley out of Los Angeles, Willie Brown out of California, Oakland; just a bunch of people that we came in contact with, Maynard Jackson down in Atlanta, a bunch of people who we came in contact with in the course of doing this radio, TV stuff. Again, these radio and TV guys in some ways were big deals in these

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times because they were very popular or at least politically connected so you would meet these people in that sort of context when I was going there to help clients with different issues. And, then on the not-so-famous front, got to travel to see a lot of America because we represented radio and TV stations across the country and it was again, part of the schizophrenia, almost all of my clients were outside of the city. Very, very, very few were here in the city. So, I was on the road frequently. In a month, I might be out of the city half the time, 15 days out of 30 per month I was out of time.
Did you enjoy that?
Some, but it got old after a while. When you wake up and you don’t know where you are, literally. You know you’re in bed but you don’t know where, you don’t know what city you’re in. You know you’re not at home but you don’t know where you are, that’s when you know it’s too much. You lose that connection. It got to be a pain.
I remember one time I went to Atlanta. I had a big problem develop in a cable deal we were doing and we had to go through and rework some stuff. So, the guys in Atlanta said, “Fred, look you have got to come down here because on the phone and faxing and stuff is not working. Why don’t you come down here? We will work on this overnight and we’ll get this thing done.” So I agreed So I fly down to Atlanta the next morning and work all night and I don’t get back home until a week later because ‘overnight’ turned into a week to get this thing fixed. It was like bizarre. I remember that one because I went down 3 or 4 days before my daughter number 3’s birthday, and I fully intended to be back. I was going to be

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there overnight and there was no way I was not going to be here for her birthday, but I didn’t get back until a couple of days after her birthday which made her and her mother real unhappy. So that was sort of an issue from time-to-time. But that was just the nature of the business. When you are doing sort of the big deal kind of stuff it just consumes huge amounts of time. It is not something that’s easily manageable that you can fit neatly into a time window to say, “Hey, okay I’m going to do this between 9-5.” It doesn’t work that way. You do the deal until the deal gets done. And, oftentimes there are a lot of pieces that have to come together and sometimes they don’t come together neatly or orderly and it takes longer than you think. So, those things were kind of fun. Like I said I started in ’78 and in ’82 I was admitted to the partnership and that was good. I became a partner and that was fun, kind of an accomplishment. I didn’t really, I can’t say I came there with the intent of becoming a partner. I really came there to take a break. I came there because I had been doing litigation most of the time, certainly over the last two years and I was kind of fatigued. This was a way to take a break and to see something else. But I always thought I would go back to litigation because that was really lawyer’s work to me. As it turned out, I enjoyed this stuff much more than I enjoyed litigation. Litigation has a whole lot of risk involved and a lot of opportunity to be unhappy when you don’t get the result you want. So, this was better for me. I felt like I was really helping somebody realize a dream, to own a radio station or a TV station. I was increasing the number of Black people who owned radio and TV stations. Theoretically, at least, beginning to make a dent in changing the images of Black people in radio and TV because

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arguably the people who own the stations have some say about that. So that was in a lot of ways more rewarding for me.
I enjoyed the higher education work because it was intellectually stimulating. Again, you got a chance to work with some of the best schools and colleges. I represented the University of Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, University of Illinois, Nebraska, Cal Berkley, UVa, Ohio State, we represented a lot of really big deal schools. They had lots and lots of interesting things going on.

All public. Is that just a coincidence?
No, that was a coincidence.
So you did private ones too?
Because I represented a number of private ones too. Yeah. We represented Cornell, for example.

Okay.
I also helped put Howard University’s public TV station on the air, which is great as a kind of a help to my alma mater.
Yeah.
We did that pro bono and we represented Howard for free, provided legal help for free and helped them do that. Mr. Sutton basically volunteered to do this with his engineering people, but we put the first Native American-owned radio station on the air, KILII at the Rosebud Indian Reservation in Porcupine, SD on the air. So, we did stuff like that. That was sort of cool and I liked doing that. I felt like I was doing something, like I was contributing something with these crazy legal

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skills that I had. So, those kind of things were fun to me, so I was really enjoying that.
By the time that I got admitted to the partnership I had pretty much decided that I didn’t really want to do litigation. At the firm they had asked me to do, from time-to-time stuff called “administrative litigation” and some very few piece of straight up judicial litigation. Actually, when I first went there, when I first went back, maybe in the first year or so, I got this other guy who had come from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and I were assigned to do this administrative litigation thing before the FCC. So, we were doing that. We were associates, but we had both been out of law school 4 or 5 years so we weren’t like totally being babied. They were watching us, but we were pretty much on our own. We crank out these pleadings and send them back to the Commission to file. Then the administrative law judge issues an order that basically gives our client what the client sought to have done. But it had a footnote that said that our pleadings, the pleadings filed by Al and myself, were vituperative and insulting. We were like, “What?!” Our view was, you know, when you are in litigation you punch the other guy’s lights out. This is not a tea party, you go for the throat.

Yes.
That’s what we did. But we did not realize that in the gentlemanly world of the FCC you weren’t that aggressive. So they were a little bit teed off at us for going for the throat so hard. We’re like, “This is what we do, we’re litigators.” And, then Al continued to be a litigator and I slowly but surely got away from that. I

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stopped being vituperative and insulting. So every time I see Al now, I introduce him as “vituperative and insulting Al Turkus.
That’s great.
So, anyway, I did some of that but I enjoyed the transactional, telecommunications, intellectual property work and much, much more. And that’s really what I was doing and I was quite happy doing it. It was fun to me. So, when you were partner in 1982? Is that right?

Yeah, 1982 I became a partner.
Were you still the only African American at the firm?
No. We had some associates. We hired associates. Because by then I was on the hiring committee, so I was around hiring Black people. We had a number of associates, but they were all relatively new. Most of them were either in the law school class of ’81,’82 or so. There was a clump of them, about five or six of them. When I joined the firm, I was number 37. By the time I was a partner four years later there were about 100 hundred, I believe. There were a bunch of them. There were a lot. Wow.
It grew fast. We had an office in, well maybe not in ’82, but later, shortly after that we had an office in Atlanta and we had an office in New York City. And, then, we had an office in California near Los Angeles, (what was the name of that city?) some suburb of Los Angeles that we had offices in. The firm grew and by the time I left in ’87 there must have been 200 attorneys. There were multiple offices. It was huge. Then it shrank, but then it got big again. So, now it’s back to over 200, I think.

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In those early years when you were an associate, it sound like you were really busy. Were you involved at all in local issues? Were you involved with politics at all? Or, were you working all the time?
Working all the time. But I was involved to some degree in politics. I became involved in school board things. There was an ad hoc group of people that were trying to improve the quality of school board members. And so we sort of self- appointed ourselves to vet candidates and to endorse them or not, you know. So, I became a part of that.
Who else was involved?
Man, I forget. I know we endorsed Carol Schwartz when she ran the first time for the school board. I know we did that. But, I forget who that group was now. Yeah, we did that and then I was involved at a very low level in some of the council races for Charlene Drew Jarvis supporting her in Ward 4, where I lived. In Mayor Barry’s election through some people who worked for him, with him. I was part of some ‘lawyers for Marion Barry’ or some name as that. We had a reception where he came and I remember he spoke and we raised some money, not much of anything. Most folks were putting in hundred fifty, two hundred, that kind of thing, so it wasn’t a lot of money, but because of the number of us that made it turn into a lot of money at the end of the day. We did that kind of stuff. And so, I did do that. school board and council and some mayoral election but not really a lot of it. It wasn’t really a big part of what I was doing. I was doing it kind of willy-nilly. There was not a real plan to it. I didn’t have any, again I didn’t have any local aspirations. My client base was outside the city and I was

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really involved with the Federal Communications Bar Association and things like that that looked like they had some ability to expand my career with organizations of university and college general counsels, things like that. Where I was trying to get to be better known so that if they needed to hire somebody they would think about me, that kind of thing. I was one of the founding members of what’s now called the Black Entertainment and Sports Lawyers Association. Back when we founded it in 1980, it was just called the Black Entertainment Lawyers Association and the idea was to, again with the numbers of growth of Black athletes, Black entertainers to have some Black lawyers to represent them. Driven in part by one of my own personal pet peeves was that when I was in law school learning that Joe Louis basically was penniless after he had made huge amounts of money in his lifetime. But, his money had basically been mismanaged. He was not a particularly intellectual or astute man and he relied on people who just took advantage of him. And, I thought that was horrible and I wanted to sort of be a part of fixing that. So part of the reason for the birth of BELA at the time was to create a pool of Black lawyers who could be available to represent these entertainers. So a number of us who had worked in predominantly white law firms and had gained some experience in either entertainment or tax who knew a little bit about how the business worked could be helpful. So I was doing those kinds of things.

That’s interesting. Do you have more memories of the founding of BELA? Who else was involved?

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I’ve got something else around here somewhere? With the 20 something odd founding members, yeah. We founded it in Philadelphia in 1980 and there was a guy here in town, Butch Hopkins and Kendell Mentor, Louise West, let me see, Larkin Arnold, Phil Asbury, there’s a bunch of people who were founders who were either in the entertainment business or who had recently come out of it and were looking for clients to develop. Later on we added sports guys to it. Because at first it was just straight up entertainers, either recording artists or people who were film actors, TV people. And, then later on maybe 5 or 6 years later we added sports guys to it and now it’s called the Black Entertainment and Sports Lawyers Association, BESLA as opposed to BELA. Anyway, now the weird thing about BESLA is that my daughter, my oldest daughter who is a partner at Steptoe and Johnson and does Intellectual Property work in Los Angeles…

She’s in the Los Angeles office?
She’s in the Los Angeles office. She, this is what, the 20th anniversary?
Could you state your daughter’s name?
Oh, her name is Michelle, Michelle Anne Cooke. And, Michelle in 2000 was invited to join BESLA because she does entertainment work along with her intellectual property work. So, one day she called me up and she says, “What is this?” And I go, “What are you talking about ‘what is this?’” She says, “I get invited to join BESLA. I’m invited to the annual meeting at which they’re going to honor the founding members and your name is here. What is this?” I go, “Well, I’m a founding member.” “Well, why didn’t you tell me” (she says). I said, “You didn’t ask.” (Laughter). “Did it a long time ago. And I sort of forgot.

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I mean I don’t know.” So she was all wigged out that I had done this or had been involved in this and hadn’t told her. So now she’s a member. I am not a member any more. I’m a founder and they parade pictures of us at the annual meeting. I haven’t been to a meeting in a long time but they hold these pictures up and talk about the founding members. But they gave us a watch and a plaque and all this stuff. And I’m thinking we just sat around a room and said, “Let’s start an organization.” We got a watch for that, nice watch too. It was a nice watch. I still have it at home. So she’s involved in it now, doing work in entertainment and intellectual property and I’m happy for her. I am proud of her, she’s a good lawyer. I call her for advice from time to time. I don’t pay her for it though. That’s right. You already earned that.

That’s right. I tell her “I’ve already paid for this legal advice. I have a pre-paid

So were there any other affiliations, professional or political or otherwise in your early legal career besides the ones that you’ve talked about?
Oh yeah. I was a member of the National Conference of Black Lawyers Communications Task Force and we were just a pain in the side of the telecommunications industry. We ran around saying all kinds of stuff and fomenting unrest. The National Council of Black Lawyers, The National Bar Association, were all organizations that were, at different points of time in those early days, focused on sort of alleviating a problem and that’s why I was a part of those organizations at the time. It seemed to me that whenever people were cranked up to do something that we ought to get on it. So I was trying to be

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helpful and we would go to these meetings and raise all kinds of sand. It was great. That and the Washington Bar Association here in town, it was a local affiliate of the National Bar Association. I was active back in the early ‘80’s. And, then there was a group of lawyers here in town, Black partners in predominantly white law firms. There were a number of us. Vernon Jordan was a part of that group. Vinnie Cohen was a part of that group, a number of guys and ladies, mostly guys. One of the things we would do we would sit together and talk about as a kind of support group we would talk about the stuff each of us was going through and how you could build your practice, expand your practice. We tried to talk to the younger lawyers, the Black associates in these firms. Explain to them, you know, sort of how the game was played and how they could be successful. In the summertime, we would give, at somebody’s house, a get together of all the Black summer associates at the predominantly White law firms and get them together so they could meet each other, if they didn’t know each other. They could meet some of these Black partners and talk about life and some of the things they’ve been through and some of the mistakes they’d made and some of things they thought were useful to their success in the business. That was a thing we carried on for about 5 years.

In the ‘80s?
In the ‘80s. Yeah. We were pretty good about doing that. And trying to network. I learned a long time ago from Judge Draper who was just a great mentor person that the obligation I had really was to help the people behind me, the next wave. And the judge told me, and I always tell kids this, is that if they call me up or

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somebody says you ought to call Fred and talk to them about XYZ. Okay fine, I’ll talk to them. I take them to lunch or whatever and we talk and I tell them. They say, “Gee thank you, do I owe you anything?” I’ll say, “The only thing you owe me is that when it is your turn to sit on this side of the table you’ll do the same thing for somebody on that side of the table.” And, that’s what the judge told me. He said, “I’m doing this for you because somebody did it for me. What you’ve got to do is when it’s your turn to sit on this side of the table to do it for somebody else.” And I think that’s important and so we tried to do that pretty vigorously during the 80’s and I think people carried it on after I sort of got out of it in ’87 or so. It was a good idea. It’s interesting because in the, about the peak, because the numbers had steadily moved south, there were more Black partners in predominantly White law firms, I think both numerically and as a percentage of the total, in 1985 or 86 than there are now. And, it is really odd.

Really?
Yeah. . Firms got bigger, but the number of Black partners has not. Not proportionally. Not in the same proportion. And I can’t figure out why that is. A lot of the Black lawyers come in and leave. I don’t know whether it is an inhospitable environment or whether there are more options that they have, they see grass is greener someplace else? I don’t know exactly what it is. But I know, my sense is that that pipeline that you might normally expect of associates becoming partners isn’t there. There are huge gaps and it’s just really kind of interesting to see the cyclical thing happen. The numbers went down and have been going down for a while. They may be headed back up again. Most of the

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guys that I knew are retired now because they’re smarter than I am and they’ve retired. They’ve amassed their fortunes. So I don’t have as much inside information from guys who are senior who see the firm-wide statistics and can tell from year-to-year kind of a thing but I have more anecdotal stuff than I do actual data. I’ve got to try to get some just so that I know. It is a curiosity thing more than anything else. Not that I am going to do anything about it. I just would like to know what the numbers really are and maybe develop some sense of why the numbers are what they are. But it is an interesting phenomenon. But anyway, so we did that and those where good things, I think on the whole we tried to do. It worked for a while. And then, in about ’87 is when I left the law firm environment and went to work for the District Government. I became Corporation Counsel.

May I interject briefly before you go on? What caused you to take that job? What precipitated the move from the law firm to the D.C. Government as Corporation Counsel?
As happy as I was I didn’t think I was doing enough. As happy as I was with the work and the people, I didn’t think I was doing enough. Why I went to law school was sort of getting lost in what I was doing. I just had this desire, this thought that I had to do something that was more constructive. Now, couple that with the fact that I was kind of schizophrenic about living and working in my hometown and having almost no contact with it, it just exacerbated the sense of “What the hell are you doing?” So, that was really the push. I didn’t realize it.

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This wasn’t a fully formed thought, or series of thoughts. It happened when a classmate of mine who was working at Covington and Burling…
A law school classmate?
A law school classmate, working at Covington and Burling, a guy named Don Golden who is dead now. But Don was a partner (no he wasn’t) yes he was, he was a partner at Covington and Burling. He was doing FERC work, he hated it. But anyway. He called me up one day and he said that he understood that Mayor Barry was looking for a new Corporation Counsel, and did I know anybody who he could talk to about this. I told Don I didn’t really but I would try to find out for him. And in a bizarre coincidence I made a couple of phone calls, and I don’t remember who (I think Jim Dyke and somebody else) and then I get a phone call from a guy named Arnie Miller. Arnie was the head hunter that the mayor had hired to find a new Corporation Counsel. Arnie asks me if I knew anybody who might be interested in the job. I say, yes I do. I recommend a guy named Don Golden, a classmate of mine. I think he’s a great lawyer. He would really be good for the mayor, good for the city. He wants the job. I think you ought to talk to him. Arnie asked if I had any other names. I didn’t really know any other names, but I also wasn’t interested in sort of giving Don unnecessary competition so I said no. I gave him Don’s name and number. Two or three weeks later Arnie calls me and tells me that he has talked to Don, that he had talked to some other people (didn’t tell me who), who said that you ought to be on this list.” I told him no, and that I was really trying to help Don. He asks me to meet with him so that he could explain to me about the job and maybe I then could better help him

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figure out who might be good for the job. So I said, “Okay,” because my plan is to go and pitch Don. So, I go meet with to him, and I promote Don for the job. He calls back a couple of days later and says, “Look, the mayor wants to talk to you, and I think you ought to talk to the mayor. You don’t have to take the job, just talk to the mayor.” The mistake I made, was in talking to the mayor. When I talked to the mayor, unbeknownst to me, Arnie had decided that I was a candidate of some viability (I don’t know if he had decided if I was the only one but I was a candidate and he told the mayor that). When I meet with the mayor, he is talking to me in sales pitch terms. He’s not just talking about the law and the job and who might be a candidate. I had known Marion but not well. I met him when I was in undergraduate school and he was running SNCC, and when he was running PRIDE, so I had bumped into him. In a really weird twist that I didn’t realized at the time, he was married to Mary Treadwell who was my cousin. I didn’t know Mary was my cousin until after he and Mary were divorced and somehow at some family function I found out that Mary was my cousin. So, anyway, he’s pitching me on the job. I hear him and I tell him that I was really happy doing what I was doing, I am really flattered, but I think that Don would be a great choice So this meeting causes me to go home and to thing about his sales pitch. That is when it begins to crystallize what this unease I had really was. The mayor just really sort of crystallized it for me. So I thought “Damn, that’s what I ought to be doing.” I ought to be Corporation Counsel. This is a way for me to continue what I was taught at the law school, what I went to law school to do. So,

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I talk about in my head and I talk about it with a couple of my partners and I talk about it with my then wife who was not real happy with the idea at all.
How many children did you have at this point?
Four? Daughter number four had just been born the September before. Marion had a fundraiser at my house for the ’86 election weeks before, this is really weird, I remember this now. We had just moved into that house like in April. Where was the house?

17th and Holly NW. And we were just getting it squared away when somebody convinced me to have this fundraiser at my house for Marion, a bunch of other lawyers for Marion. It was sort of a big house. It could accommodate people showing up, standing around drinking white wine or whatever. But the lunacy was my wife was pregnant and the baby was born in September and the fundraiser was going to be rather in September and I’m thinking why did I agree to do that. This is not going to work. My wife’s not going to be happy about this. She’s like very pregnant, and not happy with an event at her home.

You had to pay for that one.
So, long story short. We had to fundraiser literally a week or two before the baby was born. Right around the primaries. Timing would be just before the primary like the 12th of September or something like that. So we have it and this goes away. Then after that we start having these conversations about the job. I wind up taking the job like in January of ’87. January 2, 3, 4, right at the beginning of January. So I tell my wife that I am thinking about doing this, she is not real happy about it because she’s upset still about the fundraiser in her very pregnant

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self and the kid, the baby is less than six months old and how are we going to make all this work. There is going to be a large pay cut, and more. But, all I’m thinking, is that I have to do this
Long story short. I take the job. I agree to take the job. Although, first I call Don. I tell him that I will not take the job if he still wanted it. Don, gracious person that he is, said “No. The mayor wants you. You ought to take the job. I have no problem with it. I can keep doing FERC work.” I feel sort of bad because he is on this seventh ring of hell doing FERC work. So that’s how I wound up taking the job. I was not looking for it. I had no intention of doing it because I was really trying to help Don get the job. It sort of evolved into me getting the job, agreeing to take the job. So then I tell my partners at the firm that I am going to be leaving to take this job as Corporation Counsel. They are all very supportive, and tell me that I can come back when you finish, whenever that is. I had agreed, I told Marion that I really came to be a lawyer, and that I really didn’t want to be part of the political thing. I told him that I really would stay on the job until the next election, and that if he decided to run again, I would leave a decent time before the election so it wouldn’t look like I was abandoning him. Also, I knew that I didn’t want to be a part of an election process. So I wasn’t sure when I would be coming back or when I would be finishing up. My colleagues at the firm were happy for me and supportive of me. They even filled up the room for the announcement. It was a big ego boost, and just very touching. The most touching thing was that my dad was there. My mom had been dead for a number of years, but my dad came and he’s such a wacky guy, but he came with

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his new wife came (he’d remarried by now) and he was beaming. He was real proud, and I recognized him from the podium when the mayor gave me a chance to speak. Later on that day or the next day when I went by his house to thank him for coming to the event, that was the first time my dad ever really acknowledged any sort of feeling, any sort of emotion to me. He told me he had never known that I was that smart.” (Laughs) He told me that I had done a good thing. He thought that being Corporation Counsel was a big deal. He told me that he did not know that I could do that.” I told him that I was just doing what he had told me to do. He said, “Thanks.” It was really interesting because my father was just not an expressive person. I tell my ex-wife, my ex-wife and I used to say this about both our fathers. Her father was a physician, very successful professional man, but emotionally a lot like my father. Both of us say we never felt comfortable touching our fathers. They were guys who you just didn’t touch. They weren’t touchy guys. But my kids always touched me. They were always hanging all over me and everything. I didn’t set out for it to be that way, it was just that I never would send off a signal that they shouldn’t do it. But my dad was always real clear, “Do not touch me.” (Laughter). “That’s not what we do here.” He’s a pretty cool guy. I really learned a lot from him and I’m a lot like him, I think, in a lot of ways. But that touchy thing is like, no. So when he said that that, it was really very interesting because he had never expressed any serious kind of emotional thing. It was really kind of odd, and moving. So, I went back and told my sister, “See, Dad thinks I’m smart. He never told you, you were smart.” And, of course, he hadn’t. (Laughs)

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So, anyway, I took the job and wound up working for Mayor Marion Barry, wound up going to work for the government for what turned out to be three years before I got out of there.
So you were there from ’87 to ’90.
’90, yeah. Almost three years to the day kind of deal. That was, I got out near the end of ’90. That was the best job I had ever had. Best job I had ever had in the law, by far. The most fun. The most rewarding. The best job I have ever had, and I really did not want to stop doing it. It was something that I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I got into it, but as it turned out it was absolutely the best job I ever had.
So, in that job what was your role? What was your function?
The Corporation Counsel, under the charter, is the chief legal officer of the government of the District of Columbia. So for all legal issues related to the municipal corporation known as the District of Columbia and all of the so called independent agencies and the instrumentalities of the government, the Corporation Counsel is the chief legal officer. They have now changed the name to the Attorney General, but it is the same job with the same statutory duties. Same thing.
Just changed the name. It is the law firm in the city with the most diverse practice in the city. There is no area of law that the Office of the Attorney General does not practice, whether it’s admiralty, or anything else. The Office does it all. It was an amazing job. There are just a huge number of very good people that you have to rely on when you are Attorney General because you can’t know all this

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crap. It’s just really too much for one person to master. And, it’s a 24/7 operation. It’s a corporation that runs 24/7, has right now a $5 or 6 billion budget, has 35,000 employees, I mean, it does everything. And, so whether it’s healthcare, medical malpractice, nuclear energy, public utilities, labor, intellectual property, everything, torts of all types, it does it all.
What was the state of affairs in the District in 1987 when you started as Corporation Counsel?
Well, it was, boy, chaos, chaotic. It was a lot of chaos.
You knew this going in, right?
No, I didn’t.
You didn’t?
I didn’t. No I was blinded by the aura of the mission that I was about to assume. The practical realities had not sunk in. I had ignored them. For example, when I got to the Office of the Corporation Counsel, the day I got there, the first thing that sort of amazed me was they had rotary phones. We didn’t have any rotary phones where I worked at my law firm we all had push button phones. Well, not like now, the generation before those. So literally I got a blister on my finger for the first couple of days because I was dialing the phone and I had not dialed the phone in forever. There were no computers in the office. None. No computers. We had people who were called legal secretaries who were not really legal secretaries. The photocopy machines ran out of paper all the time, and the office did not have more paper. Oftentimes, attorneys brought paper from home. Some people brought in computers from home. I don’t know if you are old enough to

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remember this but Commodore 64s, computers with 64 megabytes of memory, of power. These machines couldn’t do anything by today’s standards certainly. So, we had huge equipment problems in the office. We had huge problems throughout the government. But, that was part of the challenge and it was part of the fun of dealing with all of those practical impediments that just made getting anything done close to impossible. We were still using with mimeograph machines where you type on blue paper and it creates a printing thing where you spin it around on a cylinder. It was very old school. There were all kinds of challenges.

And, unbeknownst to me, just after I took the job the Office of the United States Attorney began in earnest, their investigation of the government of Marion, and of the entire government. There were subpoenas everyday it seemed like. FBI agents showing up every day wanting to look at documents. It was just chaos.

So, all this stuff was going on.
Do you remember learning, the day that you learned about the investigation? Do you remember?
I remember, the thing I remember is that the Director of the Department of Administrative Services called me up and said there were FBI agents there who had a subpoena who wanted a bunch of contract documents. I asked him for more information, and he told me that the agents had a subpoena, they wanted contract documents. I speak with the agents and I am told that the subpoena was all part of an investigation being run out of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. So I call Joe diGenova, the U.S. Attorney. I ask Joe what this is all about. At the time, I do

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not know Joe, but I pretend that I know him. I try to talk to Joe lawyer to lawyer, but Joe is not talking to me. He was being cagey. He’s basically trying to intimidate me into being over-cooperative. I tell Joe that he certainly can subpoena documents. But, I get to determine, how I get you these documents. I have a government to run. The government does not exist just to provide you with documents. I have a government to run. If you want documents, you’re going to get them on a schedule that makes sense for the government. I was not going to have everybody in the agency answering his subpoena. That is not why the taxpayers hired them.” So, Joe didn’t like that. But, over a very difficult course of time, we worked things out. (END OF SIDE B)

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ORAL HISTORY OF FREDERICK DOUGLAS COOKE JR. Second Interview
August 30, 2007

This interview is being conducted on behalf of the Oral History Project of the District of Columbia Circuit. The interviewee is Frederick Douglas Cooke Jr. and the interviewer Bart Kempf. The interview took place on August 30, 2007.

TAPE #4, SIDE A

Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke:

Mr. Kempf:

Mr. Cooke: Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke:

Mr. Kempf:

Mr. Cooke: Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke:

Go ahead and state your full name.
Okay. My name is Frederick Douglas Cooke Jr. It’s August 30th, 2007 at about 1:30, 1:40 pm and I’m at my offices at 1155 Connecticut Avenue NW here in the District of Columbia.
This is the interviewer. My name is Bartholomew Joseph Kempf. This is the second interview with Fred. Fred when we left off last time you were discussing your experience in your early days as corporation counsel for the City of Washington, D.C.
Sure.
Could you please tell us again the date (approximately) when you began that job? Sure. I am not sure of the exact date but it was in January of 1987 when I assumed the duties of Corporation Counsel of the District of Columbia.
Could describe for those who might not be familiar with the title Corporation Counsel, what that is?
Sure. The Corporation Counsel…
(interrupting) or was?
(resuming) yes, because it has changed since but the Corporation Counsel is the chief legal officer for the Government of the District of Columbia for the

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municipal corporation known as The District of Columbia. And the title Corporation Counsel is really a sort of contraction of the municipal corporation’s counsel. The job title’s name has been changed since then to the Attorney General of the District of Columbia, but it’s the same function, being responsible for all the law business involving the Government of the District of Columbia and its agencies and instrumentalities.
And will you tell us how you came into that job and who hired you?
Sure. At the, near the end of Marion Barry’s second term as mayor, the then Corporation Counsel Inez Smith Reid, who is now an associate judge of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, took a leave of absence to teach law at the University of West Virginia’s Law School. There was an interim Corporation Counsel appointed, a gentleman by the name of John Suda. As things turned out, Inez did not return to the job and John Suda was appointed to the bench of the Superior Court and Mayor Barry needed a new Corporation Counsel to begin his second term (I’m sorry his third term) which was beginning in January of 1987. So he (as I came to understand later) hired an executive search firm to help him find a corporation counsel. A person working for that executive search firm called me and asked me for the names of likely candidates. As he was doing with a number of other people in the city, as he told me. I had a good friend who was a law school classmate who was working at Covington and Burling, guy by the name of Don Golden (who has unfortunately passed on now), a good lawyer, good person. He was interested in the job and he asked me if I would put his name in the hopper, as it were. I told him I sure would. So I called the search

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firm person and said “Look this is a guy you ought to talk to, he’s interested, he’s very good, talk to him.” I may have given him some other names of people who I thought might be interested. He called me back in two or three weeks and said that they had talked to my friend (they talked to some other people but other people that they talked to thought that I might be a candidate). I told him I really wasn’t a candidate. I was a partner in a law firm called Dow Lohnes and Albertson here in the city. I was doing communications work and transactional work. I was very happy with it, very comfortable that I was a partner. It was fun. And, so I really wasn’t looking to do anything different, at least not consciously. What happened is that Arnie, the guy who was on the phone, said “Look why don’t you at least talk to the mayor. Give him your idea of what things should be.” That was the beginning of the end because once I talked to Marion he convinced me that I ought to take the job. Ultimately, I did. So I resigned from the partnership, and was kind of in this whirlwind. It happened really quickly. I just looked up one day and I was no longer at my law firm, but I was being sworn in as Acting Corporation Counsel (Laughter). It was a lot of fun. It was cool because my dad got to see me at the announcement. The mayor was there and a lot of my friends were there. My dad was very happy and very proud of that. I was happy that he got a chance to see it. Unfortunately, I was unhappy that my mom who had passed on earlier didn’t get a chance to see that. But, that was the beginning of going to work as the Corporation Counsel.

Did you know Marion Barry when you started?

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Not really. I had met him a number of times. I had met him as far back as when I was in undergraduate school and he was the leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. And SNCC had a chapter on Howard’s campus where I went to school. They were I think headquartered here for a good part of the time. I would see him on campus along with a lot of other people. I had met him and seen him when he was working with an organization here in the city called Pride Inc. that he started after he left SNCC that was involved with a lot of teenaged unemployed and underemployed youth and giving them things to do to be constructive in the city. So, I knew him, but we really weren’t friends or anything like that.

What was your impression of him when you first started as Corporation Counsel? Did you have much interaction with him early on?
Oh yeah, I had a lot of interaction with him. He was, as I like to describe, an excellent client. He did not have a disdain for lawyers. He liked lawyers. He thought they could be useful. He was not willing to be controlled by lawyers, but he would seek out your views and respect the legal input in various decisions that had to be made. One of his personal lawyers, legal counsel to the mayor, was a former law professor of mine Herbert O. Reid (a brilliant constitutional lawyer), and a good friend of mine as it turned out when I was in government. Herb had sort of trained the mayor to rely upon what lawyers had to offer, and that lawyers had something valuable to bring to the equation. I mean, it’s sort of a little known fact that when Marion Barry finished his master’s degree in chemistry at Fisk University, he applied to enter the PhD program in chemistry at the University of

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Tennessee. He also applied to be admitted to law school at the University of Tennessee. He was admitted to the law school at the University of Tennessee.
He tells me the reason he did not attend law school at the University of Tennessee was because they didn’t offer him any scholarship money. He couldn’t afford to go there without a scholarship. And they did offer him scholarship money to work on his PhD in Chemistry so he began and completed all the coursework in for his Chemistry PhD, but he never went to law school. So he likes to think of himself as “almost a lawyer.”
(Laughs)
And that sometimes is problematic. I’d say “You can’t almost be a lawyer. You didn’t even go to law school. If you went to law school and didn’t take the bar then maybe you’re ‘almost a lawyer’, but just getting accepted into law school doesn’t make you ‘almost a lawyer.’” (Laughs) But it was the logical jump for him. But he was a very good client. He would seek out your advice. When he didn’t seek it out and you brought it to him, he would listen to your advice. He was not one of those clients who never blamed the lawyers for whatever decision was made. He understood that you gave him advice. He understood it was his decision to make. If he took your advice and made the decision and it didn’t work, he saw it as a decision he made not something the lawyers made him do. If he did not take your advice and it didn’t turn out the way he thought it would, again, he wouldn’t blame the lawyers.
And that’s why I say he was a great client because he understood that you were giving him advice. He understood that he could take it or not. When he took it

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and it worked, he would say “Thank you.” And when he took it and it didn’t work he would say, “Well, yeah, I guess you were right.” So it was a good working relationship and he is a smart, smart man. You wouldn’t have to break it down to very small pieces. You could talk to him the way you would oftentimes talk to a lawyer colleague and he would get what you were talking about. You could have a conversation and he would push back, certainly, he would ask questions. But he never, ever told me, when I was Corporation Counsel, that I had to come to a particular result that he thought was the right result. He would argue with me about my opinion and about where I thought we ought to be. No question about that. But he would never say, “I’m the client and that’s the answer.” He would never do that. He would say “I really don’t like your answer and if you tell me that’s what it’s got to be then I’ll either work with it or I will do what I want to do in spite of it.” Then he would tell you “Find a way to get us out of the jam you say I’m going to get into.” “You tell me if I do this, these things are going to happen and these things are not good.” “Okay. I‘m telling you I’m going to do those things. Now you find a way to make my landing as soft as it can be.” I could work with that. He never pressured me to come to a particular result. People oftentimes thought that because Marion was this, you know, kind of very hard-driving politician, very astute and crafty politician, that he would try to make you do something. He never made me, never tried to make me do anything. He and I had lots and lots of arguments. I mean, he used to accuse me of being the most conservative lawyer he ever met. But, you know he would never

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tell me I had to do a particular thing or I had to come to a particular result. And that was fine.
Do you recall any incidents – are there any incidents that stand out in your mind from that era? I’m sure there are plenty. But would you mind picking one and talking about it for a minute?

Well, at one point during most of my time as Corporation Counsel the District Department of Corrections was subject to several court orders regarding prison population. It had a huge overcrowding problem at the D.C. Jail and at Lorton Prison. In two or three different pieces of litigation attorneys for prisoners had gotten judges to issue orders that controlled, capped the number of people you could have at that particular institution, principally the D.C. Jail which was the gateway into the Department of Corrections. Back in those days the District of Columbia had these state and city functions with respect to the Department of Corrections. We operated a jail and we also operated a prison. No city in America operates a prison. States operate prisons. Cities operate jails. The difference being that people in jails typically are there for less than a year, prisons for more than a year. But the District operated both and the way to get to our prison was to come through our jail, it was the front door. So you would spend a few days or small amount of time in jail on your way to prison. And, on your way out of prison you would spend a few days in jail. So it was the in and out door. But we had a huge, huge problem with the number of people that were in the jail. Either because they were sentenced for misdemeanors, or they were felons on their way to prison. Judges fixed the maximum number of people that the District

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could house at the jail. The jail staff did a prisoner count every day. There was a court monitor who conducted the count. So, we had to work real hard at keeping that number under the count cap. Sometimes we were over it, but we were always working against that cap number. So one day we decided (we being the Director of the Department of Corrections, his deputy and me and my deputy) met with the mayor and said “Mr. Mayor we cannot get any more people into the prison. Both the prison and the jail are beyond capacity. It is unsafe for the people working there. It is unsafe for the people confined there. We can’t take any more people.” The legalism involved is that misdemeanants or felons in the District of Columbia court system were prosecuted by the Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia. The only federal prosecutor in the country that prosecutes local criminal offenses was here. When a person is sentenced in the Superior Court, they are sentenced to the custody of the Attorney General of the United States who designates their place of confinement. Now, in those days, for District of Columbia criminals (misdemeanants or felons) the Attorney General always designated either the D.C. Jail or Lorton, well almost always. Some cases were because of the safety of so and so and such. So, we took the position that these felons once they were convicted belonged to the Attorney General of the United States, not to us. We believed that the Attorney General of the United States could not force us to violate this court order by sending us people, designating their place of confinement at the D.C. Department of Corrections when we had a court order saying our population was ‘X’ and this prisoner would have made us ‘X +1.’ So, we decided that we would tell the U.S. Attorney General that we

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were not going to take anymore felons and that he should send them someplace else, we are full. We would put out a vacancy sign out. The mayor agrees.
We all realize that the Department of Justice and the Attorney General are not really going to be happy about this. They had to find some place to put these people, and they really hadn’t prepared for it. We hadn’t negotiated anything with them. The mayor says “Okay, we are going to do that it’s the right thing to do.” We had this meeting with him on like Thursday and we decide that we are going to do this, we’re going to close the door on Saturday, we going to have a press conference on Saturday. The reason we decide to do it that way is because it would cause maximum grief for the Attorney General because they had the least ability to react to this. (Laughter) Because it was Saturday.

Because they were all home.
They were all home. So we talked to the mayor’s press secretary and we work up a press statement from the mayor, press statement from me and a press statement from the Director of Corrections. We decide that we are going to meet and have a press conference at 10:00 on Saturday morning in front of the Wilson Building (well, then it was called the District Building). I come back Saturday morning. I’ve got my little coat and tie on. The Director of Corrections and the press secretary were there and we’re looking for the mayor. The mayor is not there. So we’re asking “Where’s the mayor. He has helped make this decision.” Ten or fifteen minutes after 10:00, the mayor shows up. But the mayor is dressed very casually. He’s got on like a jogging suit.
(Laughs)

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So we say “Mr. Mayor, we’ve got a press conference today. You can’t go in front of the camera in a jogging suit.” He says, “I’m not going in front of the camera.” We say “Wait a minute but you said we’re going to close the prison and we’re going to have a press conference.” He says, “Oh yeah, we’re going to do that, but that’s bad news, you guys give bad news I don’t give bad news.” (Laughter) He says, “I don’t do bad news.” He says, “You go out there and you give the bad news, we’ll see how it goes.” So, we go out. We give the bad news.

Who is we again?
Me and the Director of Corrections.
Okay.
We go out and we give the bad news that we’re closing the thing. So by noon Monday the Feds had gone to U.S. District Court and gotten some kind of court order to make us take the prisoners back. So we were taking them yet again. It was an interesting time in the government because there was so much going on. It is a truly remarkable law practice. It is the most diverse law practice in the District of Columbia. The Office of the Corporation Counsel — the Office of the Attorney General now — does more diverse things than any law firm in this city. Some really good lawyers, some not so good lawyers. Very dedicated, and it is a 24-hour day, 7 days a week business that has 35,000 employees and does all kinds of stuff. You never know what you’re going to get next. And, that was part of the excitement as well as the fact that you knew you were making a difference by virtue of the decisions you made. It did make a difference as to whether we did this or we did that or whether we said “yes” or whether we said “no.” It is a very

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humbling kind of experience really. When you realize the people sort of care what you think. They come to you and they ask you. It’s not because of me, me but you’re at the position. They need you to have input. They need you to take a position. They need you to file a lawsuit. They need you to not file a lawsuit. They need you to do stuff. I mean we, we had a great opportunity to make a profound difference in the lives of citizens. And, that was one of the things you began to recognize sitting behind that desk. So, I really, really enjoyed it. It was the best job I ever had practicing law, by far. And, it was the most taxing. It took the most out of you because it never stopped. It never went away in terms of the demands of your time and your attention. And that was somewhat troubling. But, it was the most fun I ever, ever, ever had practicing law.
What about — do you have any other anecdotes or stories (you were just talking about you know being able to make a positive difference). Do you have any anecdotes along those lines or really along any other lines that stick out in your mind thinking back?
Well, I mean there are all kinds of crazy stories. We had you know, I mean in the fall of 1987, October 1, 1987 (I remember because that’s the beginning of the fiscal year), the District assumed responsibility for St. Elizabeth’s Hospital which had been run by the Feds up until that point. It became an agency or part of the Government of the District of Columbia. The St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, the federal piece of it, had had an in-house legal staff all of whom became Assistant Corporation Counsel. The woman who ran that division out there was a woman named Ann O’Regan Keary who is now a judge on the Superior Court. She is a

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friend of mine. We became friends at the time. And, Ann had been pretty independent you know. She was an agency of the Federal Government that was so far down that nobody knew they were. So, they were really pretty independent — lacked real supervision. When she became part of my shop and, you know, we sort of wanted to know what was going on. So, there was a little tension at first, but because Ann is such a great lawyer and a good person that pretty quickly went away.
So, one day, I went out to the St. Elizabeth’s campus to the Office of the Corporation Counsel on the campus to just kind of meet and greet the people. See what was going on. How they were getting along. What they needed me to help them do to make their lives better. It was a kind of management thing that I believed in. I would go visit the various offices to see what was going on for myself and to get a sense of what I could do to be helpful to the people working there. So we walk around and Ann is showing me, introducing me to the staff people and the other lawyers. And there were a number of patients, St. Elizabeth’s patients, working in the legal office. Doing clerical work — filing, stuff like that. Which had been part of their therapy. The doctors believed this would help them recover. Most of them were people who had been institutionalized with various psychoses. So, I meet some. They’re all very pleasant. Whatever issues they had they weren’t acting out, you know. They looked relatively normal. So anyway I leave. I call Ann a couple of days later to say thank you. She says, kind of off-handedly, “What do you think of Mr. Hinckley?” I ask “Mr. Hinckley?” [She says] “Yeah, well, he’s working here?”

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I say “Was that John Hinckley!?” She says, “Yeah, that was John Hinckley.” And I go, “Oh, wow that John Hinckley.” And I go “Why is he working there?” [She states] “Well, his doctors think it’s part of his therapy and it’s good for him.” Well, as a matter of coincidence it seemed, three or four weeks later there’s a newspaper story that John Hinckley is working at the Office of the Corporation Counsel, and basically the story wasn’t so much that he was working there — the story was that he was able to leave the John Howard Pavilion at his whim. He was not supervised. He could just walk out to go to work and go back. And, because St. Elizabeth’s has no gates he could have walked off campus. Out there they call it ‘eloping.’ Because the facility is not secure. You just — people just walk on and walk off. So the Office of the U.S. Attorney again became enraged. They were just insane that this man could be allowed to wander around unattended. So they asked me to fire him and send him back to John Howard Pavilion to be locked down. I said I wouldn’t do it. I said his doctors said that was part of his therapy, I’m not going to get in the way of the doctors view of therapy. So they went to court and got a court order. (Laughter) You know they were always getting court orders relating to the District because they (the Feds) oftentimes wanted to treat us like stepchildren or some other kind of inferior beings. I kept saying “We’re a sovereign government, we have rights, we have prerogatives, we can make decisions — you don’t have to agree with them — but, you know what, you don’t get to make the decisions we do.” And, so, they would run off to court and slap us around (Laughs). That was sort of one of their favorite tactics, was to run off to court. They would call me up and you know I’m

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sure they had the pleading written when they called me because they knew I was going to tell them “Take a walk.” So the courtesy was we’re going to call you and we’re going to ask you but if you don’t. Tell you what, you’re going to get a call, another call in another five minutes saying, “Judge X wants you in his courtroom because we filed this pleading and the judge wants to know what you think about it.” So we had those kind of crazy fights with them all the time about prisoners, about people at St. Elizabeth’s, about the almost never ending subpoenas that they were serving on the District Government to investigate what they alleged was criminal activity on the part of Marion Barry and others in the Government (almost none of which they ever uncovered). Because that really wasn’t what was going on. They couldn’t believe that so they were frequently serve subpoenas.

Did that start after you became Corporation Counsel or had that been done before?
It had been done. It just cranked up. They just ramped it up. It was at light speed they were serving these things all the time. And, I used to call Joe diGenova up and say “Joe”…
(interrupting) And, who is Joe?
Joe diGenova at that point was the U.S. Attorney to the District of Columbia. I would often tell Joe that I represent the Municipal Corporation. The Corporation cannot be a criminal. I am not going to let you treat us like criminals. If you want information from us, you ought to call me up and we can talk about it. Please do not have FBI agents showing up in agencies of this Government

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demanding stuff. We can’t do that. We’re not going to respond to it. I suggested that he ought to be prepared to deal with police officers arresting your agents when they show up on our property uninvited.” He did not like that either. But, we sort of worked out a little bit of a truce where they would sort of tell me or serve me with it and we would try to work it out — their request for information, their desire to seize documents.

Did their investigations ever bear any fruit? Did they ever amount to much?
Not many. I think at the end of the day, clearly, there were people (employees of the District of Columbia Government) who were corrupt. I think that’s true in almost any government in any large city across America. But I don’t think the experience here was extraordinary or particularly different than you would have found in Baltimore, or New York City or Chicago or Des Moines. But they couldn’t believe that. They thought that this was all — because what they couldn’t really believe was that Marion was not a corrupt official.
Marion had a lot of demons, a lot of issues. But they were really personally driven. They aren’t about — he doesn’t have any need or desire for wealth. People might argue that he probably should have focused more on that during his life. But for him it’s never about accumulating things. It just wasn’t. And, so — and they found it difficult to believe. I think typically when you look at government corruption you look at people seeking some sort of personal gain. They’re stealing money to put in their bank account or whatever, take a vacation or buy a big car. Marion never did that because those things weren’t important to him. He did a lot of stupid things — I believe. But it wasn’t corrupt in that sort of

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way. There were people around him who seized on the opportunities that being close to him or being in government might have provided. Again, that happens lots of places. But they were on this crusade.
What do you think — why do you think they were on that crusade? What was the motivation? Motivations can be complicated, I guess. But what’s your opinion? Yeah, I think motivations are complicated. I think that Marion represented in the minds of a lot of people (certainly a lot of reactionary people) a threat. In that he had, he in the entire history of the city, was the only public official who had ever been able to mobilize the lower socio-economic group in the city, groups in the city. He was the only person who has ever been able to do that. That represented, I think, a threat to certain elements of the hierarchy in the city or who dealt with the city. So Marion got to be a problem because he was not controllable. See, they couldn’t control Marion in the sort of typical ways that you might control some politicians. You couldn’t control Marion because he didn’t want things. He didn’t want a piece of this real estate development project or that real estate development project. He didn’t want to be accepted into their ‘club,’ if you will. And, so they really couldn’t get a handle on him. Because of that, he represented a threat. It’s complicated. He represented something that I think they felt they needed to control. They weren’t successfully controlling him beforehand so they spent a lot of time and a lot of money investigating him and trying to ultimately corral him. Ultimately, they were obviously successful, in a totally different direction than they had intended. They had intended to establish corruption in this government and he was somehow benefiting. Turned out that he had a substance

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Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke:

abuse problem and that’s what they were able to convict him on. Yeah, so that was the problem — for him.
Did that occur when you were Corporation Counsel or was it later?
That was right after I left.

Right after you left?
Well, part before, part after I left. There was an incident at the so called Vista, not the Vista. An incident at the Ramada Inn which is now a Holiday Inn at 15th & Rhode Island Avenue.
15th and what?
Rhode Island Avenue it was. Where a gentleman from the Virgin Islands named Charles Taylor, who was allegedly a friend of Marion’s, was arrested for possession of cocaine after Marion had just been there. That created a big stir. Then later — and that happened six months or so before I left — then right after I left, within a couple of months of my leaving, the Vista Hotel arrest happened when Rasheeda Moore was used as a decoy, a lure. The government had the room all wired for sound and cameras on the inside of two-way mirrors or one- way glass. And they arrested the mayor for possession and use of cocaine.
But, you know, again I don’t ever apologize for substance abuse man I think it’s a horrible thing and I understand how people get caught up in it. I do think you have a choice to make. The first decision as to whether or not you walk down that road. If you watch the videotape, the tape really wasn’t about cocaine the tape was about sex. That’s why he was there. The cocaine was a way to get to the sex, so that’s what happened. It was really quite tragic and unfortunate in terms of

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Marion’s personal disintegration and what that meant to a large segment of the community. To see one of their heroes, if you will, come to that end. In a less kind of sensational human way, it’s obviously a tragedy when any human winds up addicted to a substance and cannot control his or her behavior (because the substance requires them to behave a certain way). That’s really what it was. It was a fundamentally human failing as opposed to some larger governmental collapse. Now, his inability to function well adversely affected the government. One of the things that happened was that Marion was, unbeknownst or un — when it was not clear what was going on, it was clear that something was not happening the way it should, that things were not happening the way they should happen. And, it really fell upon the City Administrator…

(interrupting) And, who is that again?
Well, during this time it was Carol Thompson (who is now known as Carol Thompson Cole because she got married to a guy named Cole). But Carol Thompson, who was the City Administrator and the Deputy Mayor and myself as the senior members of the government, really basically had to run the Government because Marion wasn’t able or willing to run the Government. The responsibility just sort of devolved to us. There was no one else to do it. Our supervisor wasn’t supervising us so we supervised ourselves. That was important because for all of us the Government was important. It was important that the Government continued to work. It was important that the citizens continue to get the services, the best services we could provide for them. The fact that a key member of the management team was not functioning properly or well didn’t

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mean things should stop, in our view. I know Carol and I both are natives of the City and it was very, very, very important to both of us that the Government continue to operate, that people not have a sense that (whatever they thought of Marion), that other things weren’t going to work. It couldn’t come to that. People needed to come to work every day, they needed to do their jobs. People needed to come to work every day, sit at their desks, do whatever it is they’re supposed to do. You know, make the trains run on time. Provide fire protection, police protection, fun the schools, pick up the trash — all that stuff is going to continue to happen. And, we tried to make sure it did. So, while we had some challenges along those lines, we just kept on trucking.

Where there any instances where the mayor’s inability to, to, to really be present at all times, where there any instances where that really put you all in a bind or, or a pickle or any anecdotes there?
Well, yes and no. I mean…
Was it more so just the normal sort of….
Well, part of what happened, you know it’s really crazy, part of what happened was Marion at a point just wouldn’t come to work. You couldn’t count on him to be at the office. He wouldn’t come to meetings. You never knew if he was going to show up or not. So, we’d have meetings arranged with people internal to the Government. We’d have meetings arranged with people outside the Government and he may or may not show up. So we would just conduct the meeting anyway. “The mayor’s late, the mayor’s been delayed” [we would say] and we’d just keep on going. That was sort of a problem.

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At one point I convinced the mayor to issue a Mayor’s Order that (and, it really wasn’t a hard convince, I don’t want to make it sound like I was, you know, using a jackhammer). I convinced the mayor that he ought to issue a Mayor’s Order that gave the City Administrator the authority to act on behalf of the mayor whether the mayor was in the city or not. There had been a Mayor’s Order that said that when the mayor is away the City Administrator has all the powers of the mayor and when the mayor and the City Administrator are away the Corporation Counsel has all the powers of the mayor. I convinced him that he ought to issue a Mayor’s Order that gave Carol the power to act as mayor, even if he was around, even if he was sitting down the hall, she could do it anyway. So he said “Okay.” So that was pretty cool. Now, there were only three things on the D.C. Code that the mayor could not delegate and they really have to do with signing documents that go back to the Congress. For everything else she was mayor. She could make a decision, she could sign a document, sign a contract, sign whatever.
Once we had that we just kept on running the government. He could come to a meeting, he could not come to a meeting, we could still make the government work. We did that — I think.
There were three Deputy Mayors. It was the City Administrator, the Deputy Mayor for Operations, the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and the Deputy Mayor for Finance. It was those four — it was the City Administrator, three deputy mayors and me (which was like the senior management team), there were some other people too. So, we would meet and sort of, you know, collectively decide things about what we would do, how we would do it, you

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know, who would help who. Well, we were doing this when the mayor wasn’t always participating. He would come to the office and he’d look for us because he’d want to know what we were doing. Sometimes we wouldn’t tell him because we didn’t want him to screw it up.

(Laughs)
So we wouldn’t tell him. We would meet in odd places in the building. We wouldn’t meet in the City Administrator’s office or my office. We’d meet in a place where he wouldn’t likely come because he wouldn’t know where we were. We wouldn’t meet in the obvious places. So, one day we were meeting in, I think, in a conference room, smallish conference room in the Planning Office or the Policy Office because it was available. And, the City Administrator’s office or her assistant called and said the mayor’s in the building looking for us. She said don’t tell him where we are. So we’re finishing our meeting up and then all of a sudden the door burst open and it’s the mayor! (Laughter) He’s like “I caught you.”
(Laughs) Red handed.
You know, it was one of Marion’s management styles, was management by confusion. He would not tell any of us all of anything. So we couldn’t necessarily get the complete picture. We decided we would meet and share what we knew individually so that collectively we then had pretty much the complete picture. He hated that, He didn’t want us to get together like that. But, you know, he — we had just a ton of crazy adventures with him and with the Government. Some because he was not as attentive as he needed to be. And, some because he

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was fully engaged. Most of the time, he was really quite on top of all the details he needed to be on. Budget hearings to me were just incredible experiences because he absolutely had complete mastery of budget. He knew all the numbers backwards and forwards. He knew your budget numbers better than you did for your agency. It was unbelievable. I enjoyed that. I enjoyed that intellectual excitement with him when we were wrestling with budget numbers. He really, really got that. He really, really, really understood that. One day we decided we had to fire the Director of the Department of Human Services. When I say ‘we’ — the Deputy Mayor for Operations, the City Administrator and myself — decided that enough bad stuff had happened over at the Agency. We thought we had to fire him. We went to see the mayor. We say to the mayor “We have to fire him. You have to fire him.” The Director of the Department of Human Services was a guy named Marion Jerome Woods. Now, the interesting thing, one of the interesting things about that was that Marion Barry hired him. Again, through an executive search he interviewed people and he decided he wanted Marion. Marion Woods was, a pretty experienced human services person, in his 50’s mid 60’s. He had been known his whole life as Marion Woods, but because the mayor’s name was Marion, he had to change his name. He had to change his name to Jerome, his middle name. (Laughter) So, he became Jerome Woods and people knew him over years were like “Who is Jerome Woods?”

(laughing) Right.
It’s Marion. The same guy, but we had to change his name because we didn’t want confusion. So anyway, so when we decided or recommended to the mayor

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that he had to fire Jerome, the mayor was resistant. He didn’t want to fire Jerome. He thought it reflected badly on his government, looked like he made a bad decision. We said “Look, this isn’t working with Jerome. He’s a nice guy, a good guy but there’s things that are just not happening and that’s going to be a bigger problem for you and the government. You need to fire Jerome Now. let’s make this as nice as we can for Jerome. Nobody’s looking to push Jerome in front of a bus, but we just need to separate.”

So after we recommended that he fire Jerome Woods, he’s just not really embracing the firing. But we talk to him and talk to him and talk to him. We have a meeting for a half hour, forty-five minutes trying to wear him down. He finally agrees that he is going to fire Jerome. Now Jerome happens to be at home in California on leave (for some reason, I’m not sure which). We have his number and Carol calls Jerome from the mayor’s office. She dials his number up and gives the phone to the mayor as the phone was ringing on the other end. So, we hear the mayor say “Hey Jerome. How you doing? Good. Things good with your family out there? Good, good. Jerome, Carol wants to talk to you.” The mayor hands the phone back to Carol (Laughter). So Carol says, “Fine. Jerome you’re out!” (Laughter)
(laughing) Ooh, no.
(laughing) The mayor couldn’t bring himself to fire Jerome. He just wouldn’t say it, he just wouldn’t say it. So he says, “Jerome, Carol wants to talk to you.” (Laughter) So, anyway, so we gave Jerome the bad news — or Carol gave Jerome the bad news. We worked it all out. We weren’t trying to be vindictive or mean

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just trying to make the point. But, Marion was like that. Marion was very unwilling to do bad news. Well, like he said, he doesn’t do bad news.
Right.
Only happy news. We would have, we would go on what people in the other government agencies might call ‘retreats.’ He wouldn’t allow us to call them retreats. He called them ‘advances.’ “We’re going on advances.” We’d say “What do you mean we’re going on advances?” So we’d go on advances and talk about how we could do team building. Talk about how we could develop policy in different areas. How we were going to get the Government to focus in on particular problems. I think those were all well done events. It just always struck me as odd that we were on these advances when everybody sort of knew we were on a retreat. We would go to places in West Virginia or some places that were relatively secluded. The whole point is to kind of get you away from your phone, get you away from your desk. To focus on this for a little bit.’ But we had to have advances and that was always funny.

We went to, we would have cabinet meetings at different locations, different agencies around the City. So, that the cabinet members could get a better sense of what the various agencies were actually doing because, you know, if you don’t work with Corrections, you may not really know what Corrections does. So we decide one day we were going to have a cabinet meeting at the Department of Corrections at Lorton Reformatory down in Virginia, in Lorton Virginia. We get big buses — school buses or some kind of buses. We meet up here and we drive down to Lorton so that we don’t have to take a bunch of cars or deal with traffic.

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So, when you go into Lorton you have to go through the metal detector because you can’t have any sort of weapons or contraband in the institution. It makes absolute sense. So, I’m in there in line with some other people in the Cabinet — going through the metal detector. Everything’s, you know, hunky-dory and I hear, after I get through, it sounds like I hear the machine go off. I don’t really think a whole lot of it because I thought “well, you know, jewelry or someone’s jewelry.” Well, it wasn’t. It was the fire chief who had a six-inch knife in his boot.

(Laughs)
He was taking it into the institution.
(Laughs) Chief didn’t go to jail?
Chief didn’t go to jail. But, I thinking “God, all I need is a news story: Fire Chief Arrested at Lorton.” (Laughs)
How was — speaking of news, how was the experience of managing the press and all of the, you know, with Barry and some of the things that you’ve been talking about in an interested press? How was that?
Well, it was difficult. I mean, because the press was, you know, insatiable in their desire to get information about whatever they thought was important. I remember maybe the second day or third day on the job. The then City Administrator, a guy by the name of Tom Downs, had invited me to participate in a press conference he was going to have to talk about ambulances. Ambulance service in the District. The District, like a lot of jurisdictions, was having problems with the ambulances arriving timely. Drivers didn’t appear to be very well trained, didn’t know where

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they were going. They would get lost and take longer to get where they were supposed to be. Dispatchers weren’t dispatching well, it was a bunch of things. Tom, before I came to government, had undertaken to do some sort of analysis of the fundamental problems with ambulance service delivery and give a report to the press and the public about what the problems were and how to fix those problems. Well, as it turned out, the study really hadn’t been completed and the fixes hadn’t been designed. Tom really didn’t have a whole lot to report to the press that was in any way constructive. He invites me to come to the press conference. I am up in his office beforehand and he’s very worried. Tom says “What am I going to say? This is going to look stupid? Blah, blah, blah.” I asked Tom if the press conference was required by some law. He told me that there was no statute requiring this press conference, right. I suggested that he cancel the press conference and tell the reporters that we’ll get back to them when we have the information we need. Simple as that. We cancelled the press conference and Tom liked me after that. He thought I was really great after that. He says, finally, “I didn’t have to have that pain of sitting there being called stupid for not having results.” My point was, that sometimes the government was its own worst enemy, in terms of communicating with the press. Overpromising and unable to keep up on them. One of the things I thought we needed to focus on was making promises that we could keep. Giving information, I had no problem with the information piece. I had worked, you know, in journalism — electronic and print. I got what the media thought their job was, to some degree. I wasn’t trying to thwart that, but I also believed that we had certain prerogatives

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and, actually, obligation to make certain that the information we were giving them was as good as we could make it. We shouldn’t be in the business to just, you know, to blab and to blab. If we had something to say, say it. If we don’t, then we don’t have anything to say.

Tom Sherwood, who worked for (at that point) The Post and now works for Channel 4, was sort of the District Beat reporter. Tom was one of the relatively few journalists who got it, who understood, that I had no obligation to speak with him. That I could talk to him and I could not talk to him. He was, I think, respectful of the fact that we weren’t, we didn’t exist just to provide words for their newspaper. I tried to encourage other council members, [rather] other members of the cabinet to get the fact that just because a reporter calls you doesn’t mean you have to talk to him. You can say “I don’t have anything to say.” You don’t have to answer every question you are asked. We tried to work with the mayor’s press secretary, a guy by the name of John White, who was trying to coordinate press ‘responses,’ (I guess is the word to use), across the government because it had been very uneven. People were saying all kinds of stuff.
Was there much national media attention while you were Corporation Counsel or did that happen afterwards?
Well, it certainly happened afterwards, but there was some during because we had a huge number of homicides and that was national and international news. That was a big, big, big problem. That was probably the biggest reason that we got national and international press involved was because of the huge number of

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homicides. The crack epidemic was, phew, I’m pretty sure, I won’t say that it hadn’t seen it, but it was still really, really horrible. We had so many juveniles involved in these offenses. The juvenile violence spiked up dramatically and that was the responsibility of my office to prosecute those juveniles. The U.S. Attorneys Office didn’t prosecute juveniles, just adults. We had just a huge number of very violent juveniles in the system. Most of them working for crack dealers because they knew the kids would get a lot less time than they would. So, it was really horrible. That got a lot, a lot of coverage. A lot of interviews, if you will, or inquiries from national media types. “How do you explain this? They’re killing people.” That’s a pretty simple explanation, but that was a big piece of it. I had the good fortune of becoming, probably I was the first (I have to be clear I did not do this I was the beneficiary of it, the groundwork was laid by Judy Rogers and others before), but I happened to be the first Corporation Counsel in the history of the City who was actually a full member of the National Association of Attorneys General, which was kind of cool. So, I could go to the Attorney Generals’ meetings and be with all the other attorney generals and watch them call each other ‘General’ and kind of laugh at that because I really wasn’t a general. Although they all referred to themselves as ‘General’ as though that was like their names. “How are you doing General?” [they would say]. “No, I’m not a General, I’m just a Corporal, okay. Leave me alone.” [I would say]. (Laughs) When I first went there I had to sit like at the kid’s table because I really wasn’t a General. They wouldn’t let me sit with the Generals. Then when I got to be a General, I got to sit with the big boys. And, then it’s so different. What’s his

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name, Ken Eikenberry, a very good guy, was the Attorney General of the state of Washington. He did not believe that I should be a member of the National Association of Attorneys General because I wasn’t with a state. He was very principled and he was not an unpleasant man at all. He just believed that. He was a good guy. I like Ken. It was odd that he happened to be with the “other Washington,” as it were.

(Laughs)
There was a guy named Warren Price who was the Attorney General of Hawaii, who happened to be from the District of Columbia. He was born here, grew up here and went to law school out there and never came back. He got to be Attorney General of Hawaii. I think one of the years I was in the office, they had the annual convention (it moved around among the attorneys general) and it was in Hawaii. So, I went to Hawaii, hung out with Warren who I did not know before. But I got to meet him, found out he was from D.C. and we had a great time, you know. Talking about things in D.C. He hadn’t been back for a while. But, that’s when a lot of them would call me “General.” Skip Humphrey and a lot of them. It’s an interesting organization but, like I said, some of the predecessors, my predecessors had pushed and pushed and pushed. By the time I got there, the organization was ready to accept the District as an attorney general. It was really weird because the territories all have attorney generals. They were all generals. So I was [saying] “What do you mean? How come I can’t be a general?” (Laughter) “Samoa’s a general! I want to be a general!” It was kind of funny.

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The reason I brought that up was because we began to move more in some of the national municipal organization circles. The Attorney Generals, the National Conference of Mayors. Marion had been very much involved in the National Conference of Black Mayors, smaller group, much less prestigious in a lot of ways. Dealing with small communities was the main — many, many, many small cities. But the National Conference of Mayors and the National League of Cities were the big cities. We were in there but we really weren’t. But we began to do more of that. The National League of Cities has more of a legislative focus than an executive focus. So, we began to do some of that which I thought was interesting and new and beneficial to the District in terms of making us, letting us be perceived as a real municipal player in the larger scheme of things. Many cities were grappling with some of the same problems were grappling with whether it was the crack epidemic, ambulance, as I mentioned. It was a big problem all over the City — how do you get the healthcare delivered, the whole healthcare delivery piece. Corrections issues — overcrowded prisons. Juvenile justice, the whole management of welfare piece in local jurisdictions, public housing issues. Those things were useful to us because it was a source of, it was a resource of different ideas, new ideas, solutions, possible solutions that we were beginning to tap into. That was very helpful to the District in the matter of pure governance. To understand the problems, the significance of different perspectives, to see some different solutions that you might be able to apply here in the District.

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But, there were just all these crazy things, I mean, you know, one of the things that the District has that is different from most places is we have, you know, 535 members of Congress in town who all think they’re important. And, like most people, they drive cars and they get tickets and they don’t want to pay them. Every, whatever, periodically the Sergeant-at-Arms of the House or the Senate would deliver to us this stack of tickets that members of Congress got but they don’t want to pay. They wanted us to fix them. “Fix these tickets” [they would say]. So, they usually would send them to the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, send them to that Director (physically, just drop them off). And, then they would call me up and say, “What are we going to do with these tickets?” So, we could do something with some of them but they didn’t like paying them. I remember, I think it was, who was it, it was (from Ohio, Illinois — Bob, he had been here for a while. What was Bob’s name, Bob’s last name?) He was a representative from Ohio, a Republican. It is really relevant if I could remember his name. In the District of Columbia (what do you call those things), radar detectors are illegal in the District.

Oh, right.
You can’t have them in your car. You can’t have them mounted and operable. You can’t use them and you can’t have them where they could be used. If you have one in your car it has to be in the glove box and out of sight. So, this Congressman’s wife with Illinois plates on her car that say “Member of Congress,” on there…
Right.

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Has this radar device in her, on her dashboard. Now, apparently they’re legal in Illinois. Some officer from the Second District sees her. Stops her. Issues her a ticket for having this device and does what the Code allows him to do — seizes the device. She goes home, tells her husband who gets on the phone, calls Intergov or somebody’s office within Intergov and says, “This is really not acceptable. You have to fix this.” Our people are, “Pooh, sorry Senator or Congressman.” So, they call me up and they say “Look you need to get this organized. You need to get that police officer to give her back her radar detector and we need to get this ticket fixed.” [I respond] “Okay, okay, okay.” So I call the police chief and say, “Chief, Second District blah blah blah. He says, “Ooh, ooh that’s horrible! I’ll call you back.” He calls me back and says, “Bad news.” He tells me that the officer confiscated the device, which we often do, and then he destroyed it because, well, it’s contraband. I suggest to the Chief that he look at the Chief’s discretionary fund and find enough money to buy that woman a new machine. (Laughs)

So, they bought her a new device and delivered it to her house with apologies. We would get stuff like that frequently because members of Congress and their staff would just do stuff, but they didn’t want to experience the consequences. They didn’t think they should experience the consequences because, well, “We’re the Congress and you’re just the District of Columbia. We tell you what to do.” [They felt]. That was frequently a problem.

I remember Carl Rowan who was a famous journalist and TV and radio personality had the misfortune of having some young people, teenagers, trespass

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on his property and use his pool (backyard, just went in his backyard at night). They decided the house was empty when in fact it was not but they went in his pool, swam around. He goes out and, you know, to find out what’s going on. He’s obviously, he’s an older man, he’s obviously not particularly happy about this and he’s probably feeling pretty insecure about, you know, 3,4,5 some odd unknown number of relatively robust kids in his backyard. You know, maybe they may mean to hurt him. He has a gun. He fires the gun. He says it was a warning shot. I think it hits the ground and either a bullet or some piece of concrete hits one of the kids in the leg. A very minor thing, kind of. Not much more than a scratch. The police come and at the end of all this the police say “What do you know, this gun he had he had no permit, no registration for it and we think he ought to be charged. If this had happened in Southeast we’d prosecute him so why should someone in Upper Northwest not be prosecuted?” I got a lot of crap about that. People did not think he should have been prosecuted. They thought I was going too far. The mayor called me up and said, “Are you sure you want to do this, I’m taking a lot of political flack about this…they’re wondering how come I can’t control you.” I asked him if he wanted me to drop the prosecution to just tell me. I told him that I would not drop the prosecution, but I wanted to know if that was his pleasure He told me that he was not telling me what to do, that he wanted me to know that I was making it hard for him politically. He left me alone. He never told me what to do. He said, “This is not helping me but okay, you do what you think is right.” We prosecute him, and we lost. His son was very unhappy with it. His son was a former FBI agent and his

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son — the gun actually belonged to his son — that he left at his dad’s home. His son was a former FBI agent, but he was no longer and FBI agent and so they had this theory that because the son at one time lawfully had the gun (because he was an FBI agent), the gun was somehow grandfathered for all time. Sometimes, people who had some wherewithal, some notoriety or whatever, thought that they should get different treatment. I didn’t always see it that way. That was okay but, you know, I just thought that part of my job was to do the job, to be fair and (as I used to tell people all the time), if it ever got more important to keep the job than to do the job — I was in trouble. I told the mayor many more times than once, [paraphrasing] “I am prepared to resign if I am a problem for you politically you think you can’t handle, tell me and I’ll resign. It’s no problem. I don’t, I don’t feel like this is, you know, some birthright thing. You know, I mean I’m entitled to the job as long as you have confidence in me. When you tell me that, you know, I’m more trouble to you than I’m worth then, hey, that’s all you have to say and I will resign. That’s doesn’t mean I’m gonna say ‘well, okay I’ll compromise a principle just to keep a job. I’m not going to do that but I understand the nature of this beast, and if you think that I am more trouble than I am a benefit to you then it’s time for me to go.” And, you know, that was the way I tried to do the job. Literally. This is really no joke. Literally with a letter of resignation in my desk drawer every day. All I had to do was sign it and date it. It was just, I would handwrite the date and sign it because all the letter said was (it was a one paragraph letter, two paragraph letter). A) I resign the Office of the Corporation

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Counsel of the District of Columbia. I appreciate the opportunity to serve you and the citizens of the District of Columbia. Cordially yours, Fred Cooke. (laughing)
And it was in my desk draw every day, and it was just there and I was ready to sign it at any time I needed to get out of there. But, it never happened that I felt (yeah, at one point I did resign obviously) but not because of that. In fact, I wrote a different letter. A much different letter because I was resigning because I needed to move on and make some more money because I was dealing with tuition for my kids. I think that for me the over-arching principle was that this was an important job and needed to be done right. Needed to be done well and if you weren’t going to do that then you need to move out of the way and let someone who could, would do it that way have the job. As I said before, I had a great time.

I thought that one of the things, you know, I tried to bring to the job was a kind of an honesty and a directness about what the answers to questions were going to be. Not try to make it overly lawyered. To be as helpful to my clients as I could. I used to tell them all the time if it was not illegal, immoral, or unethical I will help you do what you want to do. Now, I may disagree with you in the public policy development piece of it but that’s not my job. I’m not the public policy guy, I’m a lawyer. But as long as you stay inside the lines of legal, ethical and moral, then okay. You know, I’ll help you. My job was not necessarily to say “No.” My job was to say “Well, not this way, let’s do it this way. You can’t do it that way.”

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I remember one day I was doing this sort of “management by walking around” thing and I was going to different clients at this point that we represented because we represent the whole government. And I would go around and kind of see, you know, how do you like what we’re doing, how can we do better for you, you getting your stuff you need quickly, whatever, whatever. I was there at some agency (I don’t know maybe Department of Employment Services, someplace) and talking to the director and some of their key people, we’re sort of walking around. This person, a woman said to me, she said “You’re the Corporation Counsel.” I said, “Yeah.” She says, “I’ve been working for the government for 18 years. I’ve never seen the Corporation Counsel.” (Laughter) I said, “Well, you know, I’m here to help.”
(laughing) “Here I am!”
That’s right. And I just thought that was kind of odd that you could sort of closet yourself from your client like that. I mean, see I had come from a private sector environment where, you know, you really, it was clear you worked for the clients. They paid you every day or every project and if they were happy with you they kept you and if they weren’t happy with you they got a new lawyer. So, we had, client relationships were really very important to me. In the way I grew up as a lawyer I’d spent 10 or 12 years say before I came to the government. So, that’s just the way my brain worked about how you, you have to make the clients happy. So I would go see them to find out what are we doing that you like and what are we doing that you don’t like, more importantly. Not so much that, because I knew they couldn’t fire me, but at the same time that didn’t seem to make sense.

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Mr. Kempf:

I mean, they’re your client. You want them to be happy. You want to do the best job you can for them. So, I would walk around and talk to them. Try to see what was on their minds and what they liked about what my lawyers were doing or not doing. How we could do better and I think that that was important in terms of a kind of maturation of the government. The government became a bit more sophisticated. I mean, not just me but the management skills that people were bringing to the table.

Oftentimes government organizations channel a cult of personality. They work by the sheer force of whoever is driving it at that particular point and time. That’s not all bad, but that’s not the way you really institutionalize and sustain an organization. You want to have infrastructure. You want to have organizational principles, organizational integrity and you can only do that by bringing in people who are committed to the organization and sound management principles. We were beginning to do that. It was difficult because, you know I tell people, the first day I went into the government (the first couple days), I went home with a blister on my figure because they had rotary phones. I had not used a rotary phone in so long it just, I had a blister on my finger. It was like “What is this?” dragging it back and forth.
Wow.
It was weird. We didn’t have any computers. We didn’t have any computers. This was a long time ago. This 1987 and computers were not as prevalent, obviously, as they are now. Nor were they as inexpensive. But…
(interrupting) the rotary phones…(laughing)

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Yeah, rotary phones were just unbelievable. I was just stunned by that.
Aww, boy.
But we, the mayor, I was complaining about computers. I said, you know, “We have to get some computers.” We had what they used to call the IBM Selectrics (typewriters with memories). We had some employee letters in there and you could still do that. But, you know, it really wasn’t, but there were 286 and 386 computers (which had to do with the amount of RAM, 236 and 236 KB or RAM). It was so puny compared to what’s out there now. But, anyway, those were sort of like the ‘gold standard.’ And, we didn’t have any. We had secretarial issues — as many government agencies did. A lot of my lawyers, certainly the younger ones, [who] had some experience with lawyers said, “Look if you get me a computer with a word processing program I can crank out my own product. I don’t necessarily need a legal secretary.” So I said, “Cool.” So I kept trying to pester the mayor to give me $5 or $7 million dollars to buy a whole scad of computers and some printers and stuff you need to make a system in a very primitive sense. The mayor kept saying, “Your budget’s tight, I can’t do this, can’t do that.” So I kept bugging him, bugging him. I kept saying to him, “You told me when I took this job you were going to give me this money. You haven’t given it blah, blah, blah.”
So we’re having this meeting one day of the, what did we call it — we called it the Public Safety Cluster, which was the Police Department, Fire Department, Corrections, Office of Corporation Counsel, Parole Board and some other people. So, we’re having this meeting talking about budget issues and blah, blah, blah.

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I’m doing my usual whining, “Where are my computers, I need the computers, I need the computers.” So he looks at me and (Police Chief at that time was a guy named Maurice Turner), he turns and he says, “Mo, give Fred $5 million. Enter it as a transfer” and Mo says, “What?!” (Laughter)

(laughing) Oh ohh, no.
And Mo’s got a gun. I was like “What?!” He says, “Give him $5 million because I want him to stop bothering me, and you guys have some extra money.” Mo says, “We don’t have any extra money.” He [the mayor] says, “You do. Give him the $5 million.” So Mo’s budget officer was a guy, a police inspector, a guy named Sammie Morris who’s a really good guy. Sammie is glaring at me.
I’m sure.
I have my principal deputy with me (who is now the Chief Judge for the D.C. Court of Appeals), Eric Washington, and I say “Eric talk to Sammie, work this out. I don’t want to talk to Sammie.” (Laughs). So, anyway, Sammie won’t talk to Eric. He calls me up. He cusses me out. I said, “Sammie, all I want is that $5 million. All I want to know is when are we getting it. I have to issue purchase orders. (Laughter) Sammie is just outraged. Long story short, after about a week to ten days Sammie forks over the money and we start issuing purchase orders to buy these computers. My guys really thought it was great. It was a great personnel builder that made people very happy to have these things. Sammie and the police department were just frosted. We get a bunch of the computers, the mayor comes down and, you know, we show him what we can do with the computers and he says, “I hope that keeps you quiet.” He got it. He knew that I

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needed them. So we made it work. But that was, you know, there were all these kinds of challenges because we had so few resources in so many areas which made the job a lot more difficult than it needed to be or could be. Some people like myself who had been in the private sector, had not been government people, and really weren’t charismatic leaders ourselves but knew something about organizational management and knew something about how to make organizations work were trying to begin to do that. Carol Thompson certainly one of them as well. Trying to bring the government into the 20th Century. So we began to confront many of the challenges that we were being confronted with because we were just under-resourced. I mean, we just couldn’t get things done because we just didn’t have the tools that made it likely at all that these things were going to get done, or done well certainly. That was just one of the huge, huge challenges we had.

One day I’m in the Court of Appeals (I argued very, very, very few cases when I was there). I would go to appellate arguments — on important cases I would go. They were important, too important for me to argue because I didn’t know what I was talking about. I thought that the real lawyers should go. I would sit in the audience and kind of evidence the fact that I thought it was important by sitting in the audience, not at counsel table, in the audience. One day I’m there, sitting there in the audience, the panel includes then Chief Judge Ted Newman and some others (I forget who) so anyway, my guy is making the argument that we talked about and that I believed was the proper argument for that particular case. Chief Judge Newman doesn’t like the argument. Chief Judge Newman says to the

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lawyer that, “This argument doesn’t make any sense.” Then he says, “Fred, why did you send him here to make this crazy argument?”
(Laughs)
He’s talking to me. Then, I find myself, I find myself yelling at the Chief Judge from the audience, “No, that’s not a silly argument, just because you don’t agree with it doesn’t mean it’s silly!” Somehow the voice inside my head says “You’re yelling at the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals from the audience — stop now!” (Laughs) I sit down and Judge Newman looks at me and I just kind of go “I don’t know what happened. I’m sorry.” (Laughter). People would think that I was like unbalanced because I would just blurt out things from time to time. Because, again, my thought was that some of these things are too important to get involved in the crap and we just need to cut through it.

One day I’m at a meeting in the mayor’s conference room with school board members, council members, a number of agency heads, talking about violence in schools. The city had had at that point, a number of children shot or stabbed or assaulted in schools. Mostly, kid-on-kid kind of stuff. So, we’re having this summit to figure out what to do. A guy on the school board, a guy named Calvin Lockridge, who was a legendary school board member and a wacko (in my opinion — but anyway is talking. While everybody’s lamenting, “What are we going to do, these kids are criminals? We don’t know what to do and blah, blah, blah.” Calvin says, “Well, you know, what we ought to do is we should have a parade every time one of these gang guys gets killed. We should have a parade. We should celebrate the fact that that guy’s dead and that no good came of him.”

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Some people listened to him. I’m looking at this and I’m thinking, “This is crazy!” So I say, “Excuse me, that’s BS. Why are you people sitting here listening to him say stupid stuff like that?” I said, “Mr. Lockridge, you’re a bigger asshole than anybody every told me you were.” This caused an uproar. He’s talking to an elected official like that! I did it because this is stupid. Mr. Lockridge demands an apology. I refuse because what he had said was stupid. It was inappropriate. The meeting deteriorates, and everybody kind of watches to see what will happen next.

Oh, my gosh.
(laughing) The mayor calls me up later on in the afternoon and asks why I had said that. . I told him that I had said it because what Mr. Lockridge said was stupid and, somebody had to say it was stupid. I did not think that we should waste time having a conversation about that. The mayor told me that I could not do that kind of thing because Lockridge was an elected official. I disagreed, but I asked the mayor if wanted me to call him up and apologize.” The mayor said “No because it was stupid.” (Laughter) The mayor just wanted to know why I had done it. He did not disagree with my comment .At the same meeting I had also told a council member that he was talking out of the side of his neck. The mayor asked me to call that council member, and apologize to him. So, I did. I was sort of one-for-two. But, you know, that was what we did. We just, we would deal with stuff that we thought needed to be dealt with. (Laughs)
Well, you just mentioned the school violence a little bit earlier. You talked a little bit about the murders and the drug problems. What was it like for you personally

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and for you and your co-workers, day in and day out to, to sort of deal with that and have that on your mind as you were, you know, going about? You know you’re obviously trying to manage a hundred different things and a lot of different agencies, but you know, surely that was on your mind a lot and I just wondered what that was like for you?

Well, it was very, it was very depressing. It was sobering, depressing on a couple

Especially with you being a native of the City.
Yes. I would go (because we had jurisdiction over the juvenile courts), I would go to Oak Hill and the Receiving Home. Oak Hill is where we kept the, typically the most violent juvenile criminals incarcerated. Most juvenile offenders are released into the custody of their parents. We basically ask the parents to keep them out of trouble.
Where is Oak Hill?
Oak Hill’s in Virginia — I mean Maryland, in Prince George’s County. And the Receiving Home used to be on Mt. Olivet Road and it was sort of a ‘child jail.’ A little less stark but still a jail. I would go there to talk to some of these kids. One of the things that was really, really depressing was that when you talked to 11, 12, 14, 15 year old kid about what they had done, what we say they had done, kind of what was going on in their lives, and their eyes were just cold — there was no light behind their eyes. There was nothing there. They were just dead without being dead. That was, it was both depressing and scary because you can’t figure out how to get to them. Now, the reason that was sort of, that observation came to me

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really was the second part of the question. It was because, you know, I was them, and I was the father of four kids — I had four daughters.
And, it was always refreshing and uplifting for me to go home and see the girls, hang out with them on the weekends because they were always so lively and excited about life and the possibilities. They wanted to know stuff. [They would ask] “Dad what’s that? Dad why? How does that work?” You know, it was just, and I didn’t see that kind of excitement, that kind of electricity in the eyes of these kids in the juvenile justice system. They were stone cold. It was just depressing. It was depressing for another reason. Hal Williams who ran the Corrections Department, he and I talked about this a lot. We worried that we spent so much time working on these things, with these other kids that we were neglecting our own kids. We knew that part of the reason these kids wound up in the system was because they had not been parented. We knew that most of them had not had connections with responsible adults. At the same time, we were disconnecting ourselves from our kids (Laughs). It’s like “Ohh, man, that’s messed up!” We were spending so many hours a day doing this. It really, it hit home on those levels. There were so many of these kids where you would talk to their parents, and many — certainly not all by any stretch of the imagination — instances, were parents who didn’t have the wherewithal to help their kids. Didn’t know how or what to do, to be a positive balance in their kid’s life. The kid had gotten out of control because the parents weren’t there for whatever reason. Incarcerated, involved in drugs, working to keep home and hearth together, just otherwise inept at the parenting piece, and they didn’t realize it. They didn’t know. Now they

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find themselves in this place where they’ve got this kid that’s fundamentally out of control. A kid who has been charged with killing somebody at 12-1/2 years old. What do you do? What do you do when the kid has no sense of remorse? No sense that he has done anything wrong in any kind of societal way. You know, [kid thinks] “Okay yeah, I killed somebody. Yeah, the wrong in this situation is I got caught. That’s the only part about this that’s wrong.” That was very, very depressing. There really wasn’t any way to end it. There wasn’t anything you could do to make that better for that kid — certainly. There were so many other kids on their way down that same road. What was the intervention strategy that was going to keep them from ending up across the same table, and me having a similar conversation with them that I’m having with this kid?

You try to explain to kids the simple economics of it. The money that they thought they were making, this huge amount of money that they thought they were making from selling these drugs. When you spread it out over the time that they are actually making it — given the time that they’re going to spend, even in juvenile detention — it’s not, you know, it’s not any more than they would be making at McDonald’s. Where is the real benefit? What’s the real upside to it if you’re going to be making, still making minimum wage? The people really making the money in the drug business are not the kids on the street selling drugs. The people who really make money in the drug business are not the people who are the second or the third level lieutenants in the deal. That’s not where the

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money is. Unless you are convinced that you’re going to get out of that and be the ‘big kahuna,’ you know, you’re just not going to make any real money at it. But, it was hard, it was hard, hard, hard to get kids to see that they weren’t going to be that. Just like it’s hard to get kids to see that they’re not going to be Michael Jordan. They all have that dream and you know there’s something to be said for that on one level — you know, you need to have aspirations. But there’s just too much data that you can present to a kid that tells them that they have a better shot at being a physician than they do at being a successful drug dealer or Michael Jordan the basketball player. It’s hard to get a kid to appreciate that. Again, because their brains aren’t fully formed. They don’t process information quite the way we do as adults and so you can talk to them, but they’re not, they’re not capable of processing the information the same way you do. So, it’s a challenge to try to figure out a way to reach them.

Did you also, you and the other leadership in government, did you spend a lot of your time and energies — well, let me ask the question in another way. Did some of this stuff hang over you all’s head? Some of the crime and the drugs? Was that sort of hovering? Was that something that you all spent a lot of time discussing?

Yeah, I think we spent a fair amount of time on it. And bringing in experts. Yeah.
People who had different expertise in, in youth violence, just issues dealing with juveniles, young people. How do we develop strategies that can be most effective?

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What role did the federal government play in that? Did they, were they much of a

No. They weren’t much of a help at all. Because they didn’t see it as their problem. It was a local problem according to them. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Alfonso Jackson, the current Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, was the Director of Public Housing in Marion Barry’s third administration. Alfonso believed that one of the cures was to take all these young men at the age of 6 or so and send them off to a residential treatment facility. Separate them from their families and the environment in which they were going to grow up and create a different, an alternative universe — academic rigor, athletic rigor, learning sound principles of citizenship — and bring ‘em back when they were 18, 19-years old, it’s the best way to save them. We had a lot of discussion about stuff like that. We had a lot of different discussions about what could we do as a government to really intervene in a constructive way in these kids’ lives to make a difference. No, obviously, we didn’t choose the residential treatment thing.

(interrupting) tough to pull it off.
A little tough to pull off. But we did talk with public school system leaders and other ‘consultant experts’ about academies that we could do that weren’t necessary residential, but that were academies. Little oases we could build here in the city to focus on academics and socialization skills for the kids and create a sort of mini city within a city for them. Again, we never actually got to implementation stage because we were always trying to, but we were, we did

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spend a lot of time trying to figure out how could we address what was still exploding as a problem among youth and the age of involvement was headed south. It was getting younger and younger and younger. It was becoming more diverse, more and more females, more and more girls. Historically girls had not been involved in violence. Girls had been around the volatility, but they had not been the actual actors. But now, we were beginning to see significant number of girls who were actively involved in serious violent behavior with weapons. It was, and so it was very disconcerting that we didn’t have strategies to do that.
We worked with the Howard University School of Social Work to try to develop some programs out of the academic literature and their need to develop strategies that their social workers could use once they left school to try to figure out what they could bring to the table to be helpful in trying to bring some resolution to some of these things. We tried to involve ourselves in a lot of different things. I mean, mental health people, psychiatrists, psychologists who had expertise were part of the discussion. We tasked, I know the people at the Department of Human Services and the mental health agency to work on that and try to help understand, help us understand better what was going on. A big piece of it was trying to educate police officers who were having to deal with these kids on the street. You know, what were the police doing? What was the youth division of the police department really doing and what tools did they have or need to do a better job with what they were doing? There was a lot of different stuff going on and it was, very informative. Learned a lot about this stuff that I didn’t know before.

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I sort of struck by the fact that, that the District of Columbia police force was charged with their duties yet the United States Government actually prosecuted the crimes. Is that right?
Yes.

How did that, how is that?
Well it’s always a little nuts.
Because both are really responsible for law enforcement broadly.
Right.
And you would think that working together they would have strategies and such for dealing with crime? But….
(interrupting) Yeah, because the U.S. Attorneys Office were federal people and the Metropolitan Police Department were local people.
Right.
And there was this line. Even though the U.S. Attorneys Office needed the police department, they still weren’t really on the same team. There was this wall that just really, never really got fully breached. So, there’s always a little bit of a dance (of how do they work together when in fact they really weren’t working together?). That was part of the problem — that that we didn’t really have a true integration of agencies and programs that could really focus on the problem in a unified sort of way. These guys were over here doing this and these people were over here doing this. It really wasn’t all coming together. We were sometimes working at cross purposes. Sometimes the U.S. Attorneys Office had a view and the FBI and Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and DEA had a view that these kids

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were useful to them for certain other investigative purposes. Okay. Because again the other thing you gotta keep in mind is that the U.S. Attorneys Office not only prosecuted local felony offenses in the Superior Court, they also prosecute federal felonies in the federal court and they had a different deal about what’s important to them. What their bottom line is often not easy to see because they can take the same person and charge him with a District offense, or a federal offense.
Right.
“Take him across the street,” as they liked to say. “We’ll take you across the street” and “It’s a whole different deal across the street.”
Right.
Because you’ve got the federal sentencing guidelines across the street, a lot more

Yeah.
So, they would sometimes, you know, and I got it. I don’t necessarily think they were evil, but they had a different agenda sometimes. Their deal was “Well we think this kid is useful to us for this purpose and you guys may want to save him or her but we think we got something else we’re trying to get out of them.” So, that sometimes was a big, big problem because we didn’t, couldn’t get all the relevant players on the same page.
Do you (I’m gonna jump ahead just a little bit and asked you to give your opinion), do you see that as having changed at all?
Well, it’s changed now because the law has changed.

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Today, is it?
The law has changed in that, well, it’s changed to some degree. The whole offender supervision component of the District of Columbia Government has all been federalized. They all work for the, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA). So, what used to be parole or probation for the District Government are now all federal people. So, it’s a little bit different in that regard. But, we still, you still have the sort of fundamental fight between a local police department and a federal prosecutor who is behaving as a local prosecutor.
Uhhm hhhm.
And, that’s always, that’s still there.
That’s still there.
I think out of necessity more than anything else, a bit more cooperation between police and law enforcement agencies because they, they finally got through their heads that the problem is so huge that unless they begin to marshal their forces together they’ll never, ever come close to solving them. So, there is some sort of real world, practical, better and cooperation. But, it’s still not perfect by any stretch.
Right. (Laughs)
You know, that’s okay. You know recently the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia has been asking for private sector help in prosecuting criminal offenses which is an interesting approach. I don’t know how well it really works at all, but it shows that their sense of balancing their obligations in the so called “war against terror” and their local prosecutorial obligations are stretching them too

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thin. They need some additional resources and they’re not getting it from the federal government. They’re looking for the private sector to help them out. This is the largest, this is the single largest U.S. Attorneys Office in the country, in terms of numbers of people, and they’re understaffed according to the U.S. Attorney.
Before I ask you about what led to your, to your resignation and your decision to move out of the Corporation Counsel position, do you have anything else about your time there that you would like to add for the record?
For the record, maybe not, maybe not for the record. You know, I mean, I just think it was a great, great experience doing the work for the citizens and dealing with the local legislature and the federal legislature, budget hearings and other things on the federal side. It was a lot of fun. We had a great time, and I do think we did a lot of good things. We certainly could have done more, no question about that. But, I do think that (when I say we I’m talking about what we used to call “Team 3,” the third term of Marion Barry’s government), I think we did some good things — in spite of some very severe challenges. What people, I don’t think, quite get is how potentially paralyzing the probes by the government were, the investigations by the federal government were to getting some of the smallest things done in government. I mean, there were some really good people who went to work to make sure that that didn’t happen. I was happy to be a part of that. I was happy to be there.
So, you started in January of 1987? Right?
Yes.

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And then you left your position in…?
Yeah, I left in roughly December or January of ’89 or January of ’90. It was almost three years to the day.
Okay. And, so describe those last, if you will please, those last couple of months? What was going on in your position and also what instigated you to leave? You mentioned a little bit earlier about tuition. (Laughter) But, if you could just talk about that, that would be wonderful.
Yeah, I mean, I think that toward the, toward what became the end of my tenure at the Office of Corporation Counsel (because I had not really thought about it ended, I was having too much fun), I really hadn’t thought about leaving. So, during the time that as I said what turned out to be toward the end, the government was still challenged because Marion was becoming more problematic in terms of his ability to do his job. We had the Ramada Inn fiasco where he held a press conference to explain why he was there, why he had not done anything wrong.
Do you recall the approximate day? that was right before you left?
Yeah, it was a couple to three months before I left.
So, okay.
I forget when. I think it was…
Fall of ’89?
Well yeah, fall yeah. Late summer or fall of ’89. What I remember most is that it was in the papers, we had talked about it somewhat internally among the management team. We knew this was a problem. The stories weren’t making

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sense to us. The mayor would not sit down and tell us what happened so we could either directly or indirectly get the word out to the press, to the public that “really nothing bad happened, it looks a lot worse than it is.” After a couple, two or three days with this really horrible press the mayor says, “I’ll have a press conference and it’s going to clear the air.” We that was a good idea We thought that his press secretary and sort of the senior team would sit down and brainstorm how best to put together the press piece and do a little moot court — ask questions that we thought the media might ask and see what the response was going to be, that sort of thing. We used to do that well, you know, fairly typically. Well, this time the mayor would not meet with us and would not tell us what he was going say. He insisted that we come to the press conference and stand with him. That was disconcerting. We thought that the–this press conference could be awful. We did not know what he was going to say, or why he wanted us to stand with him.
There is a picture of me and Carol and John White, his press secretary, (and somebody else), standing behind him as he is talking with these just horribly contorted, pained looks on our faces It was very strange. A few weeks after that, Carol and the rest of us (I mean, not just Carol. I don’t want to blame her because it’s not a blame thing.), we were getting more concerned about just what was going on. We (me, Carol and John White) talked about this and we decided we would go see Delano Lewis. Del Lewis, at that point in time, was the president of the local telephone company that used to be called “C&P,” Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company, then it became Bell Atlantic and then it became

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Verizon — local telephone company. He was a longtime political friend of the mayor’s. A good guy, really rock-solid citizen who later became Ambassador to South Africa under the Clinton Administration. But, anyway, we decide to go see Del. Now, we did not tell Del exactly why we’re coming to see him. We say, “Del we need to talk to you about something.” I’m sure Del figured it was something political, and he agrees to meet with us. So we go to meet with Del and tell him about our concerns. We tell him that we don’t know what to do. We ask him for advice. And, basically, we’re saying to Del, you know, “Should we sort of have some sort of coup d’etat?” (Laughs), and announce that a new government has been formed (Laughter) and the new regime will have peaceful elections in the near future. (Laughter) And Del was very nice. He was very, very helpful in calming us down. So that didn’t work. We were getting more and more concerned. There really didn’t seem to be a solution. He was good some days and some days he was not good. It was just, it was just weird. As it turned out, my daughter, oldest daughter (our oldest daughter) was finishing college.
She finished undergrad and she had announced shortly before graduation she was going to law school. Her sisters were going to private school. I needed more income to pay for all of that. I had taken a big pay cut to take the job. That was fine, I was okay with that, but it wasn’t going to work economically anymore. So, I decided that I had to leave and I could go back to my old law firm if I wanted to make more money. And, so around November, December I sort of made the decision and then in either December or January (I can’t remember which), I actually pulled the plug. I told the mayor that I was leaving and that I had to go. I

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said “The relatively, the relatively good thing about this was that if I left early in the year it wouldn’t be seen as a comment on your reelection prospects because the election is not until November (primary in September). I would be gone long before that. It’s not a comment that people could necessarily make about the elections.” Well, he didn’t like that. He thought of it was abandoning ship, that I was not being a good soldier. He and I had a little argument about that but, ultimately, I left. About the same time, maybe a couple months before, the Director of Corrections, Hal Williams, (was a good friend of mine, he and I had been in college at the same time and knew each other from undergrad but then took career paths to wind up in the same place there in government), Hal left. So, he was unhappy about Hal leaving. He was unhappy about me leaving.

Did anyone else leave?
Some other people left. I’m not sure exactly. I can’t remember exactly who now. But, so we got out of there and I went back to my old law firm for a while. And… How was the transition from government back into private practice?
It was boring.
(Laughter)
Because it wasn’t as exciting. There wasn’t as much to do. It was a lot of just “hey, I could do all of this in a half an hour, I mean, come on give me more to do. The mayor got arrested at the Vista Hotel later on in 1990. I was sort of involved in that on the periphery. He had a lawyer representing the mayor. A guy named Ken Mundy, was just an excellent, excellent trial lawyer. I helped Ken. I had known Ken. I had worked with Ken before in different context all together. I

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helped Ken out, and tried to help Herb Reid out who was still his legal counsel and who was somewhat of a father figure to the mayor and who was very, very disconcerted about the things that had happened. I was trying to make sure Herb was okay. He was a sort of a mentor to me as well and I wanted to make sure Herb was okay. We did that and we got through that. I had begun to represent people who thought they needed some greater understanding of the maze that is the District of Columbia Government and things like that. So I was doing that. At my old firm that I went back to.

Could you give us the name one more time?
Sure. Dow Lohnes and Albertson.
Thank you.
And I had been fundamentally a telecommunications lawyer or at least a transactional lawyer doing telecommunications work, telecommunications clients. And, almost none of my clients were in the District of Columbia. Maybe Howard University’s radio and TV stations were the only ones. And my time in government had sort of crystallized for me the fact that I really, really wanted to have a local practice. This was home and I wanted to be connected to it. I had spent, you know, basically three years being connected in a very direct sort of way. Part of the idea of going (when I went back to Dow Lohnes) was that I would be the guy in the firm who sort of built a “local practice.” The firm didn’t really have a local practice. It was one of the, it was a large, very good D.C. firm that nobody in D.C. knew anything about. If you went outside the city people knew about it because that’s what we did, but very people here knew about it.

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So, I wanted to try to be the guy in the firm to build a local practice. That was sort of my initial task and the agreed upon objective. It just didn’t work. It was too much of a cultural difference type thing. You know, the firm had been established in 1917. By 1990 it had been doing what it had been doing for a long time. It just wasn’t easy to get it to turn in this new direction. People at the firm were very nice, and people were very helpful to the extent they could. They just couldn’t be very helpful because it just wasn’t what they did. I decided that, you know, before we become unhappy with each other and frustrated that, you know, “You won’t do what I want or you won’t do what I want?” Why not leave there? I came here (when I say came here we sort of, there were some people here and we sort of made it a little bit bigger) and this gave me the opportunity to really focus on a local practice because I would have to make it if I was going to ever eat again. (Laughter). The motivation was that if you actually want to have a house to live in and food to eat, you’re going to have to build a practice to make it work. That’s what I was able to do. I didn’t have to worry about conflicts with other clients and how the clients would perceive it, and you know, billing rates and how we’re going to keep things right. Because when you’re building a practice often, my experience is when you’re building a practice you oftentimes will do stuff for people for rates less than you otherwise would because it’s part what’s necessary. Well, in a large firm that’s a lot more difficult to do because it’s harder to justify “Well, why is your client, you know, being charged $125 an hour when my client’s being charged $350 for a lawyer with the same skill set?”

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I got to decide that I could charge you this and you that. That’s just want I want to do and as long as I could make it happen and work out in my head it was fine. So, that’s what I began to do. I was back at Dow Lohnes for about a year, year and a half before I left and came here. I’ve been here since 1991.

Will you tell us for the record, what here is?
Oh yeah. Here is Rubin, Winston, Diercks, Harris & Cooke at 1155 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, DC. Coming here allowed me to focus primarily on developing a local practice and serve some local people in dealing with things local — that I really wanted to do as it turns out. That’s basically what I’ve been doing for the last 16 years, something close to that, yeah.
And, so when you shifted did you also shift into litigation too? A little?
(Laughs)
Is that an understatement?
Well, I shifted into litigation, yes. I did almost nothing but administrative litigation at Dow Lohnes, practicing before federal agencies — the Federal Communications Commission, maybe the Trademark Office, stuff like that. When I came over here, I did some administrative litigation, but I also began to do (for the first time in a number of years) a lot of Superior Court and U.S. District Court litigation because that’s what local clients sometimes wind up putting you in. When the deal goes bad, or there is a problem they bring to you. It’s like “I need this suit, here win this for me” and it’s “Okay, we’ll sue ‘em.” So yeah. I wind up doing more litigation than I had been doing in the recent past. I do not and have not since 1977 consider myself a litigator. I don’t ever refer to

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myself as a litigator. But, I do a fair amount of litigation. I enjoy it because that’s why I went to law school — to be a litigator. But, after I stopped doing it almost on a daily basis in 1977 I really don’t think of myself as a litigator. You know, I have litigator’s skills. I can still get around a court room.

So, what has it been for you personally? How has it been for you personally shifting from, what I take it was, a more national practice to a more local practice in the city where you grew up? How has that been for you?
It’s been very good. It’s been very enjoyable. It’s much more, I’m much more at peace with my practice and my life. When I was doing the national practice at Dow Lohnes there was a kind of schizophrenic quality about me. That is to say, when I went to it and had almost nothing to do with the District. When I would leave work, my whole life was about was the District. And so it was kind of like a little crazy that on the one hand I would go and talk with friends and family about the District. I mean, I’m from here. I was born here. My family’s here. It was you know, that’s what it was. It just, it was sort of living in two worlds kind of deal. This way it’s much more integrated. I don’t, I don’t really switch back and forth. I do have clients that are national, yes I do. Not many and that’s not a predominant part of what I do. What I do now has a lot more gratification to it in the sense that I’m involved in what goes on in my hometown — on a number of different levels. Whether it’s helping somebody in business, doing something legislatively, you know, helping a national business try to figure out how to fit in. It, it, it’s all part of the same cloth kind of deal. That’s just better for me. I just

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am happier doing that. The shift has been a good thing for me (from my perspective).
What about were there any…so you say you moved in 1991 or so over here? Yes. I think so.

So are there any clients or cases that you had coming out of government that were notable? There in those first few years back in the private practice?
When I first left government?
Yeah. Or really from any time but I’m just trying to think chronologically.

Well, you know, I think that what has evolved for me is that I spent a fair amount, I spent a good part of my time (75%, 85%) of my time working on things that have to do with the District of Columbia. When I first left government, it coincided with Rev. Jesse Jackson moving the headquarters of The National Rainbow Coalition from Chicago to the District of Columbia. I had known the Reverend for a very long time before that. When the Reverend moved here, he and some of my other clients who were also friends of his, asked me to be of assistance to him. I helped him initially with the acquisition of a house — a home purchase and some renovations associated with that. And, then I sort of evolved to be the local and then eventually general counsel of The National Rainbow Coalition. He ran for and became the one of the so called “shadow senators” for the District of Columbia and I was general counsel to his office as shadow senator. And [I] got more involved there with national politics in the sense that he was trying to use the position of shadow senator to do some national stuff. I traveled around the country with the Reverend a lot, talking about statehood for

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the District (which is one of the things that the shadow senators push), appearing before a number of committees and state legislatures talking about the issue. Trying to get them interested in it. I worked a lot with the Reverend on that, on those and a whole bunch of things that had to do with The Rainbow Coalition being here and some of its national issues.

How did you know him? (If I can interrupt just a second.) What was your background with Jesse Jackson?
I’m not sure.
You just sort of knew him from working around?

Yeah. We just met at different things at different times. I had just known him for a long time. Percy Sutton, who was a client of mine in New York City and the Reverend were good friends, political friends. I met him with, with Percy. I met him with other people and he, we’d see him like “why are you with all these people?” [I would ask]. “I’m just around like you are” [he responded]. So we just got to be friends and remain friends). So it began with him…

So this is almost immediately more or less….
(interrupting) Pretty quickly after I left the government.
…after you left the government, early ‘90s?
Yeah, yeah. I remember once, I guess the summer of 1990, Dow Lohnes had a big summer associate program (most big firms do). , I was back on the hiring committee and so we had this meeting about programs for the summer associates, what we were going to do for them. We had a bunch of speakers come in so I asked the Reverend to come in to speak to the summer associates which (Laughs),

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which turned into just a colossal circus. Typically, we’d have somebody come in, they’d talk to the summer associates in the, in one of our large, we had a bunch of meeting rooms, large meeting rooms. You know, we had like 20-30 summer associates and usually people on the committee would come and maybe one or two other partners would come. And, you know, depending on who was speaking. That person would come and talk and blah, blah, blah, blah. We’d have some light hors d’oeuvres and everybody would go away and it was cool. Well, when I convinced the Reverend to come speak, we had to rent a room in the hotel across the street because so many people wanted to come. It turned into this huge thing (Laughs). It was great! He thought that there were enough people at the event that he should get paid for this.” I said, “No, no, no, we’re not paying you, come on.” (Laughter) We called him to talk to about 15 or 20 kids and it turned into a room full of people.

But, anyway, so I did that with him and, man I don’t know, I mean, and that turned into sort of other stuff for local people and not so local people. I did work with Al Sharpton when Al came to town. Reverend Sharpton who was, very much sometimes, a rival of the Reverend, of course.
Right.
And, I did work for people, as I said, who thought I could be helpful with the government of the District of Columbia. I represented the National Football League Players Association, the National Basketball Players Association, the National Hockey League Players Association in different issues they’ve had with the District of Columbia. When the District, for example, at one point wanted to

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tax their members on a commuter tax kind of basis. Taxing the players on the checks that they earned on games that they played here in D.C. I represented the city when Mayor Kelly became mayor in 1991, early in ’91. She asked me to help her and the in the negotiations with what became the Verizon Center (the new stadium downtown). I was really quite pleased to be helpful in trying to bring that to fruition. Me and a guy named Leonard Zax from another law firm here in the City, we represented the city in that, in those negotiations, getting an agreement that we thought would work for the city. As opposed to the agreement they were trying to do beforehand. Then I got asked to join a team working on the legislation to create the new Washington Convention Center, the legislation to build the new convention center which is now up and running. We did that. We drafted the legislation and worked it through the council, then we had to work it through the Congress because it required some congressional pieces to it. We did that and were happy to do that. That was a lot of fun, to bring that to pass. That sort of, you know, began to sort of move me into a little different place on a greater scene of people who were trying to get things done with the city and I sort of got some sort of notoriety, I guess because we were being used. You know, maybe being helpful to people in those kind of regards. I began to do more stuff like that for developers, for people who needed that. I represented Fannie Mae, Merrill Lynch and some other large entities who have involvements with the government and needed somebody to get them from A to wherever their Z is. I’ve been happy to do that. And, so again, it’s also part of trying to figure out how to get these players to play nice in the sand box, and to find a resolution that

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works for everybody. My style, stylistically I don’t try to strong arm anybody. I mean, I think the best way to get people to agree on stuff is when everybody is getting stuff that they think that they need out of the deal. Sometimes you can do that and sometimes you can’t. But that’s my typical objective. Trying to make sure everybody can work this out and, and, make it happen. I’ve been doing that for the last 16 years. In one context or another I’ve represented a number of members of Congress. I used to prosecute them, now I represent them when they get into difficulties with the city.

(Laughs)
I represented a couple of congressman who have claimed a homestead exemption for the home they own here in the District when in fact they are residents of the state of whatever (because you have to be in order to represent that state), but they somehow didn’t process that information. They think that they could save money on their tax bill if they claim this property as their homestead. Well, you can’t be a homesteader when you representing the people of the great state of whatever.
(Laughs)
I’ve been called in from time to time to help members of Congress in those kinds of sort of tax dust ups with the District Government. Some DUIs with the District Government from time to time. Some athletes as well. I try to discreetly help the athletes. Somehow work with the NFL Players Association and NBA Players Association sort of gives them some sense that I can help them. Sometimes when agents or whoever would look for somebody in town I will get a call, or there’s

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actually a couple other guys in town too who would get called, depends on what the deal is. You know I have, in fact, a state senator for the state of Georgia called me. His daughter was here working last summer as a summer intern for some senator, state senator, not state senator U.S. senator –. She got picked up in Georgetown for using a false ID. She had a fake ID to get into a place to get a drink. You know, beautiful, actually a really stunning, beautiful young woman, class president at the University of Georgia, student body president at the University of Georgia, you know, just A student, you know — on her way to law school and busted for underage drinking. You know, so, I’m trying to, somehow he gets my name and I tell him look I can, I think I can help your daughter. So, we wind up getting the charges dismissed. We get her community service and you know, it goes away. So I do stuff like that for people and I’m happy to do it. I mean, I think that you know there’s a place for that. You know, I’m not trying to get somebody who has committed vehicular homicide a jaywalking ticket. I’m not going to do that. But, I think that oftentimes some of these, certainly young people, they make some decisions that really aren’t good and shouldn’t be fatal to the rest of their lives if they actually learn a lesson from it (if it is a deviation as opposed to a pattern). I’ve tried to do that kind of stuff for folks. Also some interesting litigation at both the appellate level and trial court level.

(Laughs)
Those are fun. I don’t get to the Court of Appeals as often as I’d like to anymore. I think that’s a little bit better for me to do. Pace is a little easier and the payoff is

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so far away. Trial court, you know, you get an answer pretty quickly. Yes or no, you know, overruled or not.
(Laughs)
Court of Appeals, now I’ve got a case now in the Court of Appeals that I’m waiting for a decision on. I argued that case April 15, 2004.

No way!
And, I’m waiting for a decision as we sit here.
Unbelievable. Unbelievable. That’s 3-1/2 years.
Yeah, yeah. Drives me crazy. Every Thursday (because the opinions are issued every Thursday), every Thursday I look. I get the, the website pops ‘em on about 8:30 in the morning every Thursday. Every Thursday between 8:30 and 9:00, I’m on there looking for that decision and for 3-1/2 years I have not seen it. And, it makes no sense. That certainly is not typical, but there’s this line you have to wait in. You know you argue and 3, 4, 6, 8 months later you get an opinion.
And, that’s the part I don’t like. I want answers.
That’s right. Instant gratification not the opposite.
Yeah. Tell me I won, tell me I lost then, you know. The waiting, you know, you just have to hold your client’s hand and say “It’s coming don’t worry about it, it’s not the end of the world yet.”
So when you were, just to take you back a little bit to 1990, what, when you left government ’89, ’90, did you think at that time that you would ever get back into government?

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No. People have said to me that they thought I wanted to run for mayor. I had no interest in running for mayor. It’s never really interested me. I don’t like politics to that level. I don’t like that whole personal sacrifice piece. I, you give up too much of yourself from my perspective. I respect those who choose to do that, but it is just not what I want to do. I never thought that I would go back to government. You know, I had a great time doing it and I thought that was the window for me and that I would probably not do that. What I wanted to do, what I saw as aspirations after I was Corporation Counsel was one of two things: to be General Counsel of Howard University, or to be Dean of the Howard University School of Law. Those were the two things that I thought would kind of be nice. But neither came to pass.

I did have the opportunity, in fact, to take a run at becoming Dean of Howard University School of Law at one point, and they chose a guy by the name of Henry Ramsey who had been a judge in the Alameda County, California Superior Court. He had been an educator at Cal Berkley before that, Cal Berkley Law School. Henry was absolutely the right choice.

(Laughs)
Periodically people would come to me and talk about this whole thing of running for mayor. But, I think I’m old enough now that people have stopped doing that. At one point, there was an article. I remember once, one of law partners here gave me an article that was in the Washingtonian Magazine where they had an article of candidates for mayor, potential candidates for mayor. They had these little symbols for how much money they could raise. [I thought] “Hey, that’s a lot

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of money.” People thought I could raise a lot of money. Maybe I could raise all the money and then say, “I’m not running.” (Laughter) Keep the cash, or find me in Venezuela, if you can. But I didn’t do that. I think that there’s a lot of different ways to be a contributing member to your community and do things. It just doesn’t have to be, always have to be elected office. I think that, serving on boards that I have been on [like] Unity Health Care or healthcare for the homeless, the Board of the D.C. Bar, the Hospital Center, a bunch of different things, are different ways to bring service to the community and to try to connect different stations. I’ve always believed since I was with the government, I’ve always believed that there’s a huge disconnect between the District Government and the rest of the levers of power in the city. Whether it’s the educational institutions, the hospitals, whatever. It’s just way too big a gulf that shouldn’t exist. It doesn’t exist in most other cities. I spent a lot of time running around the country doing cable television franchising. Going to city and county legislators, or legislatures to try to convince them that my client ought to be the one to provide cable services. Part of what you have to do when you do that is that you have to go and figure out what the political lay of the land is — who the political players are, how do you get them connected to what you want to do, how to you get the nod that you need to get so that in either the formal or informal sense their saying good things about you. It was interesting to me to see that. To see how there is much more of an integration and interconnection between the public sector and the private sector than there is here. In term of the relationships, people from the business community having real relationships with people in the

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government. How the real estate community and the banking community are interconnected. How the real estate community and the media are connected. We don’t have those connections. We have those connections among those institutions on the private sector side, but those institutions are not connected to the government in the same way they are, for example, in Cleveland or in Cincinnati or, you know, Lexington, Kentucky.

I mean, when Cleveland, Ohio became bankrupt (literally bankrupt if not legally bankrupt) and was just, you know, just flat broke, the business community, the various institutions of power in Cleveland said “This can’t be, we’ve got to fix this.” They came together and they basically fixed Cleveland. I don’t think that would happen here. When the city here became broke, everybody looked for the federal government. The first thing people said was, “Feds help us.” But there wasn’t this sense of community of ownership. Part of it has to do with the simple fact that they’re so transient in a lot of ways.

Right.
It’s that people don’t have a sense of ownership that this is home. It like “Well, I’m here, but I’m really from, you know, Sheboygan, you know — or whatever.” So they don’t quite feel that same way about it and they don’t feel like they have to dip into their pockets or whatever their personal reservoir of goodwill is to bail the city out. It’s “Those knuckleheads screwed it up, somebody’s got to get those knuckleheads out of office.” or whatever — that kind of stuff. And, I get that. I mean, I’m not, I’m not saying those people are wrong to feel that way. It’s just that it’s more difficult to have that sense of community where people who grew

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up in town, went to high school, went away to college, came back or whatever. This is where I was born, my father was born, you know, my kids are going to be born here. This is home and I’ve got make it work somehow. If I’ve got to do a little bit extra then let’s do that because this is the long haul for me. I don’t know if enough people feel that way, I don’t know enough people that feel that way are here.

Have you seen that, you’ve been here for, you know, really more or less since you were born, with a few years…
(interrupts) Yeah, with a few years escape. Yeah.
Right.

Yeah.
Do you feel like that’s changed at all? I mean do you see any change in that at

No, no, I see it as, well, I see fewer local people. What I see is that there’s a huge (there has been over the last 5, 8 years), a huge demographic shift in this city.
The huge demographic shift in the city is not Black, White — it’s new. There are so many more new people here. And they bring a lot of good things with them.
A different way of looking at the world. Some new ways to do business. Some fresh approaches to some old problems and that’s all good. But, it is more of the same of transience. It’s more of the same of people who are here for whatever period of time they’re here for. They’re not necessarily for the long haul. I mean, [they may think] “I’m here, and I may be here indefinitely. It’s not like I’m coming here for 5 years. I’m here but you know I could be someplace else too.”

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You know, it’s not like they’ve committed themselves to here. I am unfortunately committed to this place. I ain’t ever leaving.
(Laughs)
And, I think you bring a different set of imperatives to the, to the analysis of any kind of problem. You know, urban problem, city problem if you know, if you expect to be here from now until they put you into the ground. If you don’t make that kind of investment it’s like “I’m not so sure I care about the solution ‘cause, you know, if it gets really screwed up I’m outta here.”

Yeah, so it’s like renting versus buying.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s something to do with that. So I think that it is a bigger piece of that. I think that there’s a, there’s a reality to it that’s driven by economics. That there was a group of people here in the city who had been here for a long time who can’t afford to live here anymore and are gone. They will never be back. I think there are a bunch of new people in the city, who are younger, who tend to be younger. Who because they’re younger to have a more narrow set of concerns about what life for them ought to be like. That will change when they have children. It changes everybody whether you like it or not. It changes you. What becomes important to you once you have that little kid in that crib or who is on the way school is different than when you don’t have them. So that’s going to change. Hopefully, I’ll be around long enough to, to, to see more people who sort of think a little bit like I do — that this is really an important city that has an identity separate and apart from the capital of the federal apparatus. That there are 600 or 700 thousand people who live here who, you know, have

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hopes and dreams and aspirations just like everybody does in any other city. That part, that city needs to be attended to as well as this whole federal thing which is the monuments and all that kind of good stuff. I think that that is important and we ought to preserve that. But that’s not my hometown. That’s something else. That’s everybody’s hometown. That’s the people in Kansas City. That’s the people in Tampa, Florida. That’s the people in Los Angeles. That’s their city and they ought to have one. They ought to have a monumental city. But that’s not the city I live in. I live in a different place. (Laughter).

Right. (Laughs)
And it’s hard to get people to get their minds around that, you know. I remember when I was with Reverend Jackson.
I was just going to ask you about that.
Yeah. It was like people, people were like really amazed. “You mean, you actually live in Washington?” They would ask. Because they sort of think that you live like in the suburbs. Like, like there’s, you know, the monuments and stuff is, is, is one place (and people don’t really live there, they come to work there but they don’t really live there). “So you guys live in Maryland? Or they’d ask “What part of Maryland do you live in?” I’d say, “No, no, no, I live in the District!” “Where do people live there?” (Laughs) It’s like “Wait a minute lady, people live in Las Vegas too. I mean, you know, people don’t think about that but there are people that live in Las Vegas who don’t live on the strip, who don’t gamble and all that. They live in Las Vegas. I live in the District of Columbia.”

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So, you mentioned in passing when you were talking about your work with Jesse Jackson that you were involved with the statehood issue.
Oh, yeah.
Would you talk about that?

Yeah. I think that the statehood issue, it was sort of my second go around at it. Back in the ‘70s, there was a Constitutional Amendment that was being circulated among the states as the Constitution requires to give the District of Columbia two senators. That Constitutional Amendment failed because it didn’t get the requisite 3/4 voter within the timeframe that the Constitution requires. I was involved in that when I was a student at Howard. Come back around 20 years almost, and we’re talking about statehood again and we create, the citizens of the District create the shadow senators and shadow representative as part of the effort to convince the Congress, President and the Congress to give the District two voting representatives. Literally one voting representative in the Congress or two senators.
And this is again, sorry to keep repeating.
Sure. That’s okay.
Early ‘90s?
Yeah, early ‘90s. We elected these two, elected two senators and a representative because that would have been our congressional delegation based on our population.
Do you remember who they were?

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Yeah, Reverend Jackson and Florence (oh what was Florence’s last name) and Paul Strauss. Paul Strauss was representative and Florence (I forget Florence’s last name) was the other senator. Okay. Part of what we then did (when I say we – – the Reverend did) was to travel around the country and talk to some of the people he knew from his two runs at president — the Democratic Party apparatus, basically — and meet with state legislators to try to convince them to convince their federal legislators that this was important to the people of the state of North Dakota [for example]. To tell them that we think this is the right thing to do for the District of Columbia. That was what we did.

We would go around the country and we’d have these meetings in, you know, towns big and small, with local, with the state senator from District 5 in Nebraska or whatever that was and the state representative (unintelligible, Tape #5, Side B @ 198). But anyway, we’d meet with them. Local kind of political officials, county executives whatever. Trying to get some political juice generated locally to kind of push from the bottom up. To put the pressure on the legislators. It was a very, very interesting experience because of a couple of things. I think there was a significant degree of ignorance about what the District is and is not. But, people out there, as it were, got it real quick. As soon as you said to them, “We pay taxes just like you do and our sons and daughters died in the military just like you do but we don’t have any representation in the Congress.” People would say, “That’s crazy.”
It’s unfair.
“That’s not right” [they would say]. (Laughs)

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Right.
They get it. I mean they don’t, there’s not a, it doesn’t turn into anything else but that real quick. They go “That’s not right.”
As a resident now I’m mad. I want some representation
(Laughs) they get it. Then the question gets to be “How do we then get them motivated, energized to go tell Congressman X or Senator Z, hey you have to fix that for those people.”
Uhm hmm.
That’s the difficulty. [It] is getting them really energized. Ted Kennedy (well we met, I met with Ted a long time ago, a lot of times). Ted has this sort of pat answer that why the District doesn’t have voting representatives is because of the “too’s” — it’s too liberal, it’s too Democratic, it’s too Black. He says that, “And it will never get representation in the Senate because of that.” I don’t know if I’m as cynical as Ted. I mean, he’s obviously a much more skilled politician than I am, but I tell you, when you talk to people in Montana or Florida or Texas or, you know, Illinois they get it, real quick. They go “Whoa, that’s wrong. You guys need to have a vote.” We haven’t been able to and we thought Reverend Jackson was a good rallying point kind of person, people would come hear him — if for no other reason than to throw rotten eggs at him, they would come to hear him. We did get good audiences. Good size audiences and, I think, pretty good receptions, pretty uniform ones. Some people didn’t of course, but pretty good reception. But it never really turned into the pressure on the members of Congress from those jurisdictions to get the members of Congress to do it. What we weren’t able

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Mr. Kempf: fairness. Mr. Cooke:

to do was to get people to say to their elected official, their federal elected official “If you don’t fix this, you don’t get to stay in Congress.” They would really not go that far because what happens is that something else gets in the way — Pork [for example]. “If you send me away you won’t get that new bus station” [It seems to be implied.] “Well, stay because we need the bus station” seems to be the response.

Right.
[They seemed to say] “So, let me get this right. We can keep those people the way they are and get a bus station, or, we can get those people someone else who will get them voting representation, and we won’t have a bus station. I think we’ll take the bus station.”
Yeah.
And so…
And it’s them that, not us…
(interrupting) yeah. So [they say], “We still think it’s wrong, but let’s see what else we can do.” It’s just a hard sell. I was always heartened by the fact that people got it. People did not say, they didn’t get hyper-technical on you and start reading, you know, line 27 of paragraph 18 of the Constitution, they would say, “That’s wrong.” (Laughs)
Right. And they’re regular folks that just, you know, have an innate sense of

Yeah. You know, “That ain’t right.” Yeah. So that was always really, really very heartwarming. But we weren’t able to ever get there so you know we go

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back and forth, ebbs and flows. I am always disappointed at my fellow residents that we aren’t able to, almost anytime day or night, put 20,000 people on the street to protest about this. Because it ought to make you angry. It ought to annoy you. I mean, , one of the reasons I volunteered to get a commission in the United States Air Force is because I never wanted anybody to say that I hadn’t done my citizenship duties. They could never say to me that you are not a complete citizen because you have not checked off one of the blocks of citizenship. Okay. That has always been important to me. I, you know, you learn it here in school so you sort of get it earlier than maybe most people would, that it’s just really screwed up here. “Who’s our congressman?” [students would ask]. “You don’t have one.” [would be the response]. “What!” [Students would respond]. And they sort of explain to you why and you kind of go “What, that doesn’t sound right.”

Right.
So, by the time I was in college it was real clear to me that I was never going to allow anybody (because we had had these conversations with SNCC and different civil rights things) about how we had held up our end of the deal. You really don’t have citizenship because you haven’t really done the things citizens do. I was like “Well, that’s crap, I’m not doing that.” So, that was one of the reasons I joined. Not because I was really interested in getting shot at. That’s why it really annoys me and does disappoint me when the others, my colleagues here in town, don’t see this as important. From the ‘60s it is the direct action mode — just close the city down. You know, close it down. You know, you can’t drive on the streets because we just put our little bodies right in the street and you can’t drive

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your car into the District of Columbia. People will get arrested, and it’ll be a big story. The story will be, why did they think it was important enough to do that? I am of the view that we need to embarrass whoever the resident is, whoever the congress is, we need to make them do in front of God and everybody. We need to make them say where they are on this issue. We should not let them hide behind convenient arguments or blame. We need to make them say where they are. If they feel comfortable enough saying I don’t think the people of the District of Columbia ought to have a vote, I don’t think we ought to change the Constitution and give them a vote. Fine. Then I want you on record doing that. I don’t want you to be able to hide behind “Well at least he’s not in front of me.” No. Tell me now. I want to know.

What’s your opinion on the current effort to get the District a representative and to give one to Utah at the same time? What are your thoughts on that? I am curious.
(Laughs) It’s a great, it’s a great hustle. I mean, if they can make it work, they can make it work. I think Tom Davis is sincere in his desire to bring about some change of the status quo. I don’t, I just personally, I don’t know what it’s got to do with the state of Utah. I mean, really. I understand the political dynamics because it’s just a political issue of how do we balance it out so that the Democrats don’t get one more than the Republicans have. It’s not about Democrats and Republicans. It’s about what’s right in terms of constitutionally, in terms of fundamental human rights. So, I appreciate it. I hope it works but, you know, I’m not a fan of it. But, you know, it’s fine. It’s corrupt. (Laughs)

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Right. When you put it that way….
You know I mean, look, I’m old enough to remember when Alaska and Hawaii were admitted to the United States. The notion was the reason they admitted two states in the same year was to balance out what they thought was going to happen in Congress. The belief was that the Alaskans were going to be Democrats and the Hawaiians were going to be Republicans.
Really?
They admitted them and it was just the opposite.
Yeah.
You can’t know. I mean, and so they try these little political games and that’s all it is a political game. It’s like, you know, my inalienable right is not a political football for you to kick around. I don’t get the vote just because I vote for republicans, do I? I mean that’s crazy. But, that’s what they would have you, that’s what they’ve reduced us to. It’s you can vote because we know you’re going to vote Democrat. We’re going to give these people another vote over here in Utah because we know they’re going to vote Republican. Well, you know, if another Republican gets caught, you know, in a men’s room maybe nobody’s going to vote Republican. I don’t know, you know.
What about, what about the race factor in all this? I don’t really know how to ask the question but I guess the demographics are shifting now in the District.
Oh, yeah.
Back in 1990 it was a shift that began to occur. If you, can you talk about that?

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Mr. Cooke:

No, but I’m cynical enough to believe that that’s a factor in why it is more topical today than it has been in the recent past. More, has a greater since of possibility about it than it has in the recent past. It’s because it’s not “those” people voting who you can count on to be crazy, left leaning Democrats. And that’s unfortunate because that’s not really true but, I think that’s part of it. I’m a big enough cynic to believe that. I mean, I, I, look I sat in Congressman McMillan’s office and was told to “go away” by the member of Congress from the great state of South Carolina. He was an absolute Dixiecrat. , I mean I get that that’s a part of the motivation and has been a part of the motivation for some people. I’m not going to delude myself into believing that’s not part of it. That is a part of it. I don’t know if that’s all of it. But I certainly believe that’s part of it. That is too bad. And they wonder why you don’t want to be a Republican? Well, because you Republicans are making it so hard to get anywhere with you. You all need to stop having these things you put up all the time.

I’m going to shift gears just slightly. You mentioned that you’ve sat on some

Oh yeah.
Could you talk about that and your more, sort of some of those boards, you know go through a mental list and talk about how that’s been important to you?
Yeah. I was, I served for seven years on the Board of Governors of the D.C. Bar. And, I was, I served on that board after I worked in government. I was asked to consider running for election on that board because I at that point was a small firm practitioner, I was here, I was a small firm practitioner and those, that group

Mr. Kempf: boards.
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Mr. Cooke:

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was kind of classically underrepresented on the Board of Governors. I happened to be African-American and that group was, tends to be underrepresented on the Board of Governors. And, I was a law guy.
Right.

And I didn’t know anything about the Board of Governors of the Bar. I mean, I knew they existed but you know that’s all I knew. And it was really pretty cool. There was some frustration with it because there is a predominance of, there’s a big firm bias in terms of who the movers and shakers are. But, on the whole, it was a good experience and I, I enjoyed my time there. I tried to contribute. I tried to make all the meetings, committee meetings. Part of the reason you’re there is because you’re bringing the small firm practitioners’ perspective to the deal, you need to be there when the issues are being talked about. You can’t just say “Well, I’m on the board and I’m here for the group photo and I’ll be back you know later.” So I took it seriously. So that was fun. I did that for seven years. What were those years?

Man, I forget. I you know it all mushes together. I was on a lot of boards at one time which drove me nuts. I was on too many boards actually. But I was on there for seven years. I must been on the Board of Governors from like ’91 or ’92 to ’99 or something like that. Something like that.

I was on the Board of Trustees of the Public Defender Service and that was cool. Trying to help the Defenders out. It’s one of the best Public Defenders offices in the country. I was real happy to be part of that. Trying to help the executive director and the attorneys who do a great, great, great job get what they need to

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get done done. I think I was appointed to that. I think the Chief Judge of the D.C. Court of Appeals, I think Judge Wagner appointed me to that position. I ultimately wound up being Chairman of the Board of Trustees before I left and that was fun.

I was on the Commission on Judicial Tenure and Disability which is sort of the commission in town that supervises judges in the Superior Court and D.C. Court of Appeals. Mayor Barry put me on that. I was a mayoral appointment to that. I did that for about three years. It was a three year appointment. It was interesting to sit there because that’s the group, the only group in the city that gets to judge judges.

(Laughs)
You bring them in and you make ‘em sit at a table on the same level as you. They don’t get to sit up. They get to sit at the same level as you and they are incredibly uncomfortable not being in control. It really, really bothers them. I was a Hearing Committee Member for the Board of Professional Responsibilities and heard lawyer discipline cases. That was interesting. Listening to lawyers, well, you do a couple of things. There’s a whole bunch of cases that you review paper files. You either accept or reject the recommendation from one of the assistant Bar counsels who has gotten the case, done some preliminary investigation and is making a recommendation as to whether the case ought to go to a hearing or not. You basically accept or reject the recommendations to whether it goes to a hearing. Once, for the cases where the hearing decisions is made, you get to hear the case as part of a three-person tribunal who listens to the Bar counsel’s

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presentation, listen to the lawyer responding presentation and then makes a decision about what recommended sanctions, if any, there ought to be. I mean, you know, the Bar counsel, there were a number of cases that I think some of us thought never should have been brought. There were other cases that obviously were huge problems and should have been brought. It’s difficult. The practice has changed for not just some of us. The guy who’s been practicing law for 30 years or more like I have will see this as such a very, very different business than what it was when we started. It is so much easier to wind up in trouble with bar counsel than it ever used to be. Some of that’s good, some of that’s bad. Bar counsel are cops. Their job is to find crime. So sometimes they find crime when another solution is probably better.
Right.
So, that’s a little bit difficult. But that was, that was a useful experience at the end. I didn’t go, I didn’t want to become a member of the Board of Professional Responsibility which was sort of the next step. So, I bowed out of that.
I was on the board of what was formerly known as Health Care for the Homeless which became Unity Health Care which provides healthcare (in its first incarnation, in its earliest incarnation rather) to homeless individuals and medically underserved people. They had vans and they would go out and serve the homeless who oftentimes wouldn’t come to a building because a lot of them are psychotic and they can’t get inside of buildings, it drives them crazy. So you have to serve them outside because that’s the only place they’ll be.
Right.

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People don’t quite think about that. They wonder “Why are these guys homeless?” Some of them have psychological issues. They refused to go inside. I mean, their psychosis will not let them go inside a building for much longer than three or four minutes, they can’t do it. You have to deal with them outside because that’s the only place you’ll ever get them. They will not go into a building. It’s an interesting thing.
We did that and then we sort of morphed into becoming Unity Health Care. We became a provider for a larger group of medically underserved individuals. Mostly Medicaid recipients here in the District of Columbia. We basically ran an HMO that Medicaid recipients could join. It’s a way sort of (a number of states have used this model as opposed to having them all show up at a charity hospital, if you will). It’s cheaper for the government to pay for them to be part of an HMO and have a network of services like you and I might have with our own HMOs as opposed to having them show up at the charity hospital at the emergency room. [They’d] Be much sicker and much more expensive to treat. So, the city began to do that and Unity expanded into that. I did that for six or seven years. That was a really, really good experience.
Right.
We had a number clinics throughout the city and we were one of four HMOs. And, they do it both for physical health as well as mental health. We do OB/GYN, we do kid’s health, we do dental, we do all kinds. It’s a very, very good organization. Terribly underfunded, but they do great, great work. So, I did that. And, you know, I represent a number of charter schools.

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Oh really?
Help them get organized and help them with their governance issues to continue to provide education for kids here in the District. Different charter schools. I represent Marriott Hospitality Charter School which is, focuses high school rather, it focuses high school on careers in the hospitality industry whether it’s culinary arts or hotel management. They have a curriculum built around that. So many, in fact, the last three years 100 percent of our kids have all gone on to higher education. Either junior college or four year colleges or to work in culinary or hotel management kind of careers.
I represent a charter school called Community Academy Public Charter School, they don’t, we don’t have a high school yet. We’re progressing to a high school, but we do pre-K through middle school, 8th grade. We have four campuses here in town. That school happens to have the largest single charter of any charter school in the city. We can serve, I think, 4500 students if we wanted to. We’re not anywhere close to that now, but we may get to that at some point.
I used to, I represented JozArz Therapeutic Charter High School which is the most unique charter high school the District’s ever had. It’s a residential treatment facility. It’s a charter school for adjudicated delinquents. We had a residential treatment facility, a school and a residential treatment facility. We had kids who needed psychiatric, psychological help, treatment but also were kids that needed to go to school. Most of them had committed crimes because of their psychiatric or psychological condition, which ever it was, and we treated them and took them to school.

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Wow.
And it was pretty cool. It went bankrupt because it was more expensive than anybody thought it would be. (Laughs)
Well, I know the service probably cost a mint?
(Laughs) Yeah. It was just way more expensive than anybody had any clue about. So, it went out of business. But it was a great idea. [Interrupted due to ambulance sirens].
[Continues after ambulance passes]. Yeah, it’s a great idea because there is nothing like it in the District of Columbia. The District has to send its juveniles who have those needs out of the jurisdiction. They have to send them as far away as Texas because we don’t have one, either that the government operates or that some private operator operates. So, it’s a real problem. That’s why they thought of the idea. It’s a great idea. It’s just too expensive. You can’t make it work on the rates they give you for charter schools. So you get the same per pupil, per capita number that you’d get if you were, if they were to spend the money at, you know, ABC elementary school. Well, that’s great except these kids’ needs, the services they require are so much more you can’t make it work with that number. You can’t pay staff (at least qualified, competent staff) what you need to pay them to treat these kids at the rates they want to pay. The part about that that’s so frustrating, of course, is that they then will spend $52, 000 a year per kid to send a kid to Texas or Ohio but they won’t pay, they wouldn’t pay my guys $36,000 a year per kid. Now they spend about $9,500 per kid regularly.

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I just, I’m curious about your interest in charter schools and how you ended up involved. Could you talk about that?
I got interested in charter schools because a couple friends of mine, most notably, a guy named Kent Amos who’s a lifelong friend of mine, another D.C. guy. Kent has been very involved in education and he is so passionate about it that he convinced me that I ought to be helpful to him. Kent is, Kent and his wife have probably adopted about 85 or more kids in their life. And they’ve raised these kids, the kids have gone to college. Kent was an up and coming, high-level executive at Xerox when this bug hit him. He basically left the life behind and kind of devoted his life to making kids’ lives better. He has become a mentor and surrogate father figure and adopted father figure for a bunch, a bunch, a bunch of kids — he and his wife. Not him, he and his wife.
What’s his wife’s name?
Carmen. Kent, who had lots of experience with kids and the D.C. Public schools (because most of the kids he adopted or worked with were in the school system in one way or another), he then tried to, began to develop this whole continuum of education, pre-K through adult. One of the problems he found, of course, with the kids or with his kids’ friends their parents had educational deficiencies — didn’t have a high school diploma, couldn’t read, whatever, blah, blah, blah. So, he was, we first created this thing (he created this thing, I helped, I did the legalisms) called the Urban Family Institute. The idea was to do beginning to end of life kind of education for people and life skills. He got a couple grants and he put one of his programs in a public housing project. He had some space and he had

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breakfast for the kids before they went to school, pre-K for the kids who didn’t go to school, after-school academic enrichment for the kids who came home from school, later on in the evening adult education. And this was all happening there in the complex with the participation of many of the tenants, mostly women, mothers, as part of the core group of participants running the program in one way or another. That worked for a while and that was, we were trying to deal both with academic performance also behavior issues with kids who with positively occupied couldn’t quite be doing other stuff.

So, Kent then decided he had the opportunity to use a lot of the information, the expertise he had developed in doing this thing to sort of do a more formal school, if you will. He had the opportunity to do that in a building and it just sort of grew from that. It happened, well it didn’t happen. Part of what got Kent excited about it was the District’s commitment to charter schools that began about 6, 7 years ago now. He saw the charter schools as a way to kind of do what he wanted to do. So he leaped in early. That’s why he got the biggest charter and they’ve said they wouldn’t give any more charters that big anymore. They realized that could be a problem.

We have four campuses. We’re in three former D.C. Public School buildings and we’re in a church in another four, one of our pre-K program. I think we’re doing some good things. We haven’t gotten anywhere close to where we want to be on academic performance in terms of standardized testing. That’s a tougher nut to crack. Again, these are all public school kids because this is a public school. They’re public school kids, they come from some difficult circumstances. We

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require the parents be involved in their kids’ education. The kid can’t stay in the school if the parent won’t be part of this. We think that, you know, as we work at this we’re going to get closer and closer to where we need to be in terms of superior performance. Not just average or whatever the standard is. We want to get way above that.

We’ve had some great success stories. Some of the kids have just, just been tremendous stars, you know. We just haven’t had enough of them. But, we’ve had some kids that have just been wonderful kids. So, we’re trying to get there. That’s great.

Yeah. So, we’re doing that and that’s a, that’s a useful thing I think. Again, it’s all part of just trying to be involved in the community and do things that experiences that I’ve been lucky enough to have let me do, constructively to help. You know, it’s not just about, you know my law partners will tell you, I am one of the worst business people that you’re ever going to meet.

(Laughs) They’ll probably be the first to tell you. That’s right.
But for me it’s never been about money. I mean, I always knew I was gonna have enough to take care of myself and be able to have a house and those kinds of things. It’s probably by some people’s definition, it’s probably excessive what I do. But, I’ve never really needed, I’ve never have felt a need to have, you know, 400 suits and five cars and three houses. It just has never been an aspiration I’ve had. So, time that I might spend figuring out ways to acquire enough money to do those kind of things I’d rather spend doing stuff to help people that need it. Someone who would really benefit from the help because it could change their

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lives in a constructive sort of way. I know that that happened for me. I know that people took time out of whatever they were doing to help me get closer to where I am. I don’t think it’s odd or wrong for me to do it. I think actually it’s the right thing to do. So, I haven’t really tried to focus much on, as much on money as I probably should have or could have. I’m sure my, children would have loved to have had more, more of whatever they’ve had too much of. But, they didn’t. They got educated. They had a pretty stable family life and they’re able to take care of themselves. That’s a great gift. You know, if they don’t like it I’m sorry. (Laughter). I mean, I told ‘em all, I said “you know you don’t have to worry about, you know, having a big sibling unpleasantness over Dad’s estate. There won’t be any, okay. You won’t have to worry about hating your sister for getting too much, or getting too little. It won’t happen.” (Laughter).

[They said] “Don’t talk about that stuff.” Oh yeah, yeah.
So, …

[TAPE 5 ENDS HERE]

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ORAL HISTORY OF FREDERICK DOUGLAS COOKE JR. Third Interview
July 2, 2009

This interview is being conducted on behalf of the Oral History Project of the District of Columbia Circuit. The interviewee is Frederick Douglas Cooke Jr. and the interviewer Bart Kempf. The interview took place on July 9, 2009.

[TAPE 6 – SIDE A]

Mr. Cooke:

Mr. Kempf:

Okay. My name is Frederick D Cooke Jr. and today is July 2, 2009 and it’s about 10:35am in my offices at 1155 Connecticut Avenue NW.
Great, and this is Bart Kempf and I am interviewing part of this Oral History Project for the Historical Society of the D.C. Circuit. Fred, I wanted to first ask you about a few items, news items that were published in the late 80’s and early 90’s. The first one involves your representation of Jesse Jackson and The National Rainbow Coalition. According to a newspaper article in The Washington Post, October 1, 1994, The Rainbow Coalition was held in contempt of court. A federal judge concluded that The National Rainbow Coalition had failed to comply fully with Federal Elections Commission subpoena. You were representing The National Rainbow Coalition.

Yes I was.
And, I was wondering if you would take a second to talk about that incident? Sure. Yes, I had known Rev. Jackson for many, many years and when he moved to the District of Columbia, moved the headquarters of The National Rainbow Coalition from Chicago to the District of Columbia he asked me if I would represent him and The Rainbow Coalition as I had sort of from afar on a more

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local basis, consistent basis and I was happy to that. This particular incident related to some political back and forth between the so called forces of the left and the right on the political spectrum. And, The Rainbow Coalition, in large part, was a pawn in a larger game of “gotcha” that was being played by the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee and their various surrogates. And, The Rainbow Coalition was asked to provide documents to explain its participation in voter education, voter registration, get- out-the-vote type efforts in some of the states in the South in response to a request from the Federal Elections Commission about whether we had done anything improper, followed the necessary rules and what not. We provided the information, the documents we had pursuant to the subpoena, but the Federal Elections Commission didn’t believe that we had provided all of the documents that they had requested. Now, in one sense they were absolutely correct. They had requested a huge number of documents and a number of different categories of documents. We responded with, in my experience as a lawyer, a relatively small response in terms of quantity of documents. The FEC didn’t like that.

They thought that we were holding back documents. But what they didn’t understand was we didn’t have any documents. Now, maybe we should’ve had documents. But we didn’t have any documents. (Laughs) So they took our non- response in a quantitative sense as contempt, as willful noncompliance. They really couldn’t get their minds around the fact that we had done all this stuff — a lot of it in a very informal sort of way. Arguably not in compliance with FEC rules because we didn’t prepare forms that we should’ve prepared. But, that’s just

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what we did. So we didn’t have any more documents. Ultimately, the contempt citation was purged because we convinced Judge Richey that we had no more documents. (Laughter). Probably should have had more, but we didn’t have anymore.

The article states that simultaneously there was an FEC investigation of the Christian Coalition and their activities in 35 states. Do you remember circumstances surrounding that?
Right. Well, that was all part and parcel to this sort of political pull and tug that I referred to. The more conservative elements of the political spectrum had urged the FEC to look into the behavior of The Rainbow Coalition, ACORN, and other organizations that were involved in the get-out-the-vote and registration kind of activities. As retaliation, if you will, the DNC and some of its forces suggested that they look into what the Christian Coalition was doing, and so these sort of things were going on simultaneously. It was more political theater than reality because each organization was doing basically what they were allowed to do under the laws. Nobody was really terribly outside the box, in my opinion. At least in this instance. There had been instances where people had gotten really outside the box, but these were not those.

Alright. Well, the second news article that I found that I thought was interesting is from the Washington Post, December 16, 1988. The article is about the Rolarks. Am I pronouncing that correctly?
Yes, “Rolarks.” Calvin and Wilhelmina.

And, there was a shooting incident. 208

Mr. Kempf.

Mr. Cooke: Kempf:

Mr. Cooke: Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke:

Yes.
A doctor…tell us about that?
Carl Rowan had been involved in an incident at his home in Upper Northwest Washington where some young people used, maybe late teens or early twenties, had trespassed in late evening or night rather and in an attempt to swim in his pool, in his back yard. He heard this, they may not have realized he was home. I don’t know that for a fact. In any event, they were in his pool swimming and he went out to investigate, he had with him a firearm, a handgun. He confronted the young people, young men at some distance, requested that they leave. What’s not necessarily clear, the dispute, the youths indicated they were trying to leave, Mr. Rowan that they were coming toward him (they may have been coming toward him to leave, they may have been coming toward him to assault him), but in any event he felt threatened, discharged his firearm. Fortunately, he did not strike any of the youths, but once the firearm went off they ran and got away and the police were called. I was confronted with the task of making a decision of whether or not there should be a prosecution. The issue really came down to whether or not, because the District’s handgun laws that had gone into effect in 1972, and this was in 1988, Mr. Rowan had no license to have a firearm, he had no license to have the ammunition, and he was charged by my office with possession of an unregistered firearm and unregistered ammunition. Sort of typical offense when persons are, at least at that point in time, for people who are charged with possession of a firearm in the District without a license. Mr. Rowan was an iconic figure in much of the Black community. He was a reporter, a journalist,

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former government official, and was widely respected and revered. My decision to prosecute him was not received well in all quarters of the city. Mr. Rolark was one of the people who felt particularly outraged (Laughs) that I was prosecuting Mr. Rowan when obviously there were other people in the city who committed more serious offenses, and they weren’t being prosecuted or whatever. My view on it was that if Mr. Rowan had been some anonymous citizen living in SE Washington and had done the same thing, we would have charged him with the same crime. My view was that I can’t make a distinction for Mr. Rowan because of who he is and what he’s accomplished in his life, which I recognized were laudable things. Justice can’t work that way. He did what he did, so we prosecuted him. For some reason, Mr. Rolark decided to call me a racist for prosecuting Mr. Rowan. I don’t get that, except that he thought that I was being compelled to do this by some sinister forces in the city, and I wasn’t.

“As part of the plan.”
“As part of the plan.” I was out to discredit another Black leader. I was a tool. I guess. He and I (Mr. Rolark and I) never actually talked directly about this. Although he and I had many conversations about many things, he was not a shy man. He would tell you what he thought. I don’t know, I don’t think he was avoiding me, I just think we never were in the same place at the same time when we could talk about this — I guess. He was pretty bent out of shape. I knew he was bent out of shape. I just didn’t realize that he had actually called me a racist. (Mr. Kempf Laughs) I knew from his newspaper, The Informer, and radio programs on which he had gone on — because this was an issue of some

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significant public discussions at the time — so I knew he was in the camp of “you can’t do this, don’t do this Fred, you’re not exercising good judgment.” But I didn’t know he had talked about it that strongly until now. (Laughs) That’s kinda funny in retrospect.

Is that toward the early of your tenure as Corporation Counsel or toward the latter part or sort of in between?
Sort of in the middle. I was in, I was, probably had been in for about a year and a half or so. So I was like, you know, pretty comfortable thereabout making decisions and I knew it was controversial. The mayor asked me to think real hard about what I was doing. Marion Barry as a supervisor and as a client, he did not in this instance and in no other instance, ever told me that I had to make a particular decision. He asked me if I was sure about my decision. He asked me many times to explain my decision. He told me a number of times he didn’t agree with my decision; but, he never told me I had to do something because he thought it was what should be as opposed to what I thought it should be. We had a discussion about it. He was getting a lot of political heat, and he wished that I would, take some of the pressure off of him by letting Mr. Rowan go. I chose not to do that.

The boy, boys who they shot at were they White?
Actually, I don’t remember. Yes, I do. Because what happened, I believe (and my memory may not be perfect on this, I’m sorry it’s been a while ago), Mr. Rowan’s discharge of the firearm went into the deck or whatever and a chip nicked one of the kids and they got medical attention and that’s how we figured

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out who they were, when they went to the emergency room. It was sort of a flesh wound, it really wasn’t anything very serious. As it turned out, it was probably just a ricochet kind of injury. They were doing what some kids in that part of the city used to do. It was in the summertime, and kids would find a pool at a house where the homeowner was away for the evening or away on vacation and the pool was full of water and just to go for a swim. It was, you know, something to do. They just happened to go to the wrong house. (Laughs)

Sounds like it. Wow.
Mr. Rowan’s defense, in part, was that he had gotten the gun from his son who was a former FBI agent. Now his son, while an FBI agent, was totally authorized to have a firearm. His son argued to me that “Well, I gave the gun to my father when I was an FBI agent.” The gun’s okay for him to have because he was an FBI agent. He could not, however, authorize people to have firearms because he was with the FBI. By the way, he was no longer with the FBI at the time of the incident. He was upset with me because obviously he cared very much about his father. He was Carl Rowan Jr. I mean he didn’t want his father’s reputation sullied with some possible criminal conviction. At the end of the day, interestingly enough, Mr. Rowan was not convicted.
He wasn’t? What happened?
He was not found guilty. I don’t know. I was, I was going to prosecute the case myself because I didn’t want any of my assistants to take the political heat for my decision. So, I was prepared to prosecute the case myself. To walk in the court and do what prosecutors do. I had done some so I knew how to do it — I thought.

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I was convinced by other people in the government that I really shouldn’t do that. That that would turn it more into a circus because it was really looking personal, like me trying to, you know, bring down Mr. Rowan which was really kind of ridiculous I decided not to do it myself. I actually stayed away from the courtroom. I’m not sure why the case went sideways. What I know is that we used a pretty experienced, at the time, pretty experienced prosecutor who had tried those type of cases a number of times and who knew the facts and knew how to present them. I think at the end of the day this was a judge problem, the judge just refused to convict Mr. Rowan.

Really.
He was found not guilty. I was vilified again. (Cynics said) “You see it was bogus, you never should have prosecuted.” My job was to put him in the dock and whatever happens, happens. From my perspective, you know, and this is something I learned early on as a lawyer/prosecutor, is that the task of a prosecutor really is to do justice, it’s not necessarily to win. I mean, yeah, you want to try to win that’s your job as a lawyer. If you prosecute a case that you believe in good faith should be prosecuted, and if the system works, and there’s a not guilty verdict then you ought to be just as happy with that as if there were a guilty verdict because the process, the system worked. That’s what you’re supposed to try to do. I believe that he should have been found guilty, but the system doesn’t allow me to make that decision and to the person that made that decision he was not guilty. I am absolutely happy to live with that, move on. I

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don’t think there was any legal error. I don’t think the judge did anything legally wrong. The justice system worked, and that was enough.
Was that one of the, I don’t know how to ask the question. From a public relations standpoint, political standpoint, was that one of the most difficult decisions that you had to encounter?

I don’t know.
Or did you even think about it that way?
That’s what I’m saying. I hardly ever looked at it that way. The mayor used to tell me all the time that I had no sense of politics. I took that as a compliment. (Mr. Kempf Laughs). Because it wasn’t about politics for me. It wasn’t about left, right, liberal, conservative. It wasn’t about politics. It was about trying to do the job that I had been trained to do and that I had taken an oath to do. I tried to call them the way I saw them. There are a lot of cases that obviously as a human spoke to me on one level or another differently than others.
I remember a case where we were trying, the government was trying, to locate residential treatment facilities for children with severe physical handicaps. This woman left her house to the government to use for those purposes in Upper Northwest. The neighbors didn’t want the home in their neighborhood. That was a tough case for me because there was a lot of lawyering from the other side about how we could it, why we could it, what were the regulations, were we in compliance process-wise, things like that. We go through that. But, at the end the day what it really was, it was about people of means trying to deny these kids with these very severe physical handicaps the opportunity to live comfortably in a

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nice neighborhood and to have green trees and fresh air around them as they worked through their physical and mental challenges. These children were largely physically incapacitated so they weren’t a threat to anybody physically. It just bothered, it annoyed me. It’s one of the things I told my lawyers, I said, “We will not lose this case, we will litigate this to the Supreme Court, we are not going to lose this because it’s wrong for these people to say that these kids can’t live in their neighborhood. Who are they to say that? There are cases like that that I just sort of felt more strongly about than others. The Rowan case really wasn’t one so much because to me it was a pretty vanilla case. It was like, you know, that’s what you did. There’s no dispute. Now we’ve got a lot of reasons as to why you did it. But, you did this. So, that one didn’t really bother me.

We had a lot of violence with youth. Lots of cases and court challenges about how to deal with those things. I remember one time we had a big meeting of the elected officials in the city — council and school board and some of the senior government officials — to talk about what to do about youth violence. There had been a lot of shootings and killings. And one school board member spoke up at the meeting and said that what we should do would be to have some sort of proclamation and other kind of honoration of people whoever they were, drug dealers for example, who killed other drug dealers because they were doing the community a service by getting rid of the drug dealers. I wasn’t an elected official and I was just sitting kind of in the peanut gallery. No, actually, I was sitting at the table with the police chiefs and other elected officials. It just struck me as such an inane comment. I said, “You are, that’s just crazy, that’s just

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nonsense and if you people sit here and not shout him down you’re complicit in this lunacy. This guy’s a bigger asshole than anybody ever told me he was.” This sent the room in to an uproar because I, a non-elected official was publicly chastising (in a not particularly good use of the English language) an elected official. My view was I wasn’t going to be political. I just wasn’t. I was not a political animal. I think that was one of the things that served me relatively well in the job was that I would not and did not get involved in that political thing. I had no political aspirations. You know people thought, “Well, he’s taking the job because he wants to run for the council, he wants to be mayor.” It was just totally untrue. I had no political aspirations. I enjoyed being around politics. I enjoyed being part of the political, the larger political process, but I had no personal interest in politics or being a politician.
Well, I want to ask you about one more news item I found and this is from a Business Week article, April 23, 1990. The title of it is “Whose District Is It Anyway?” and in it you are quoted as saying that “In D.C. Blacks can elect anybody they want but the reality is they don’t control anything. It frustrates people, they see how relatively impotent the 70% majority is.” I was wonder if, almost 20 years later, if you have any comments or reflections on that comment and I’m also curious as to whether you think that that is still a true statement?
I’m unclear, I don’t know that it’s true anymore because I think the demographic of the city have changed pretty dramatically since 1990 in the past 19 or so years. It’s changed in a number of ways. It’s changed racially in terms of demographics — I don’t think there’s any longer a 70% certainly African-American majority in

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the city. But, it’s also changed in, and I think it is more important than that racial demographic change, is the old/new change. There are many more people who are new to the city than there were then. I think the people that are new to the city don’t bring the history, the baggage if you will that people like me bring to it in terms of understanding where we were and where we are. The problems and solutions that are possible are viewed differently by people who have been here for a shorter period of time because they don’t necessarily understand why a guy like me thinks the way I do — because they haven’t experienced it (similarly I guy like me doesn’t understand the way they think because I haven’t experienced them either). When I made that statement back in 1990 or so it really was, I think it was accurate and it was a culmination of a sort of lot of thinking I had done about it.

I grew up here and from the time of my earliest consciousness I viewed this as a predominantly Black city, in terms of numbers — demographically. I think that census data and any other data you want to look at will bear that out. Roughly from the end of World War II (early ‘50s) until today, the numerical majority of citizens of the District of Columbia happen to be African-American. What also struck me as I got older in the city (I was in college in law school at Howard University) was that unlike other cities in America where the majority population where the mayor, the council, the business people, the bankers — it wasn’t like that here. All the levers of power, that one associates with power in any other community — real estate industry, banking, hospitals, communications, whatever –

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– Black people didn’t control any of them. In a city where Black people were the overwhelming numerical majority. (I thought) “Well, why is that?!
Well, obviously the answer is pretty obvious to somebody like me who, you know, was born of people from the South and who grew up in pretty rigid segregation and who myself experienced some segregation and the after effects of it certainly. It was racism. It was the nature of, the fundamental nature of the American society in its racist position or capacity to minimize and marginalize minority people to the benefit of majority people. What began to frustrate me as a young person at Howard University being sort of caught up in the civil rights movement and the Black Power Movement and all the different kind of things that were going on was why couldn’t Black people then seize the moment, take control of their lives, don’t be controlled by anybody — except who you want to control you. Make the decisions that are in your best, long-term interest as opposed to having them made for you. I grew up in a city when we saw as young people Congress’ control over the District of Columbia. How people in significant and mundane jobs in this city were basically hired at the whim and caprice of members of Congress, who would hire their political cronies, sons and daughters to work in the District of Columbia government — whether they were laborers or some senior person in government. They did it all. They did it with impunity. Where were we in that equation? Nobody seemed to really care about the local people being involved in their own government. We got the sort of bastardized form of home rule that we continue to have now in 1973 after a lot of drama, and I was certainly involved in some of the protests and the efforts to

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educate people about that. Beyond that governmental control facade, there really wasn’t control of the city by the people who lived here and should be controlling it — as would be the case in Cleveland or Gary, Indiana or San Antonio, Texas. So, this article really was me speaking out a little bit about that as I had begun to do (I think that’s why these guys came to me because I had said it at some speech I had given and they wanted to talk to this crazy guy). It really was bothersome to me in that nobody was really speaking to that. Well, not nobody, we just weren’t speaking about it enough. It’s part of the sort of dance that Black and White people in this city have done since the advent of home rule. It’s very polite during the day. We work together because we have to. We eat at restaurants downtown at lunch because we have to. We deal with people in government. Black people control the government so we have to deal with them. But, after five o’clock, the world’s different. The city becomes very segregated again. There are restaurants in this city to this day that basically don’t want Black people in there because they don’t want to be known as a Black restaurant, because then White people won’t go there. There are clubs, nightclubs, entertainment places that are the same way where they don’t want too many Black people in there because it will then be tagged as a ‘Black club’ and then White people won’t go there. That affects their revenue and things. When you go to the so called ‘cocktail parties circuit,’ there is a universe of those that are Black and there is a universe that are White and the twain don’t typically meet. There’s always a sprinkling of one group or the other in these things but, fundamentally, you don’t see people like yourself at the other one. I mean, it’s just not the way it works.

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Black people and White people aren’t in church together. It’s just different and we sort of travel in these different circles when we have the ability to make a choice without being criticized for it. Nobody is going to criticize you for going to the fundraiser to raise money for, you know, “Save the Whales.” Nobody is going to criticize you for going to the fundraiser for Congressman X from whatever. When you go there, there are no Black people there or you go there and there’s no White people there and nobody seems to think that that’s odd. It’s like, oh well that’s what we do. I just think that we collectively have to stop playing a game and deal with that and try as best we can to be more inclusive in our interaction with each other, talk and communication with each other. I think that’s ultimately the solution to all the problems of race and gender — it’s communication. You have to understand that when you think they’re foreigners, when you think that they’re odd people or different people then you’re going to treat them differently. When you begin to understand that they’re not different, then there’s less reason to be defensive, to treat them differently. The hope is that my kids and their kids (and my kids have friends on both sides of the racial divides) aren’t stuck with this baggage that I have and they are much more likely because of the forced opportunities that they have to interact with each other, take on voluntary interaction with each other because to them it’s normal. It’s (like) “Why can’t I go to so and sos house, I mean, we go to school together, we take algebra together, I want to go talk to him about algebra, or her about algebra.” That’s the hope, that the next generation and the generation after that will lose this foolishness and just the practicalities of being with people and listening to the

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same music and watching the same TV programs, wearing the same clothes, carrying around the same iPhone, we’ll just sort of dissipate all the rigidity in interaction that is a product of, largely, a product of the 19th and 20th Century. What effect do you think President Obama will have? Eric Holder, him being the first African-American Attorney General? What difference those?

I think that I’m pretty much like most people who may have spoken about this. I think it makes a big difference because I think for that 4 or 5 year old kid who sees President Obama who happens to be White or Hispanic and doesn’t know any difference, doesn’t know why there should not be one. It really creates, changes the idea of what’s possible in your mind because that guy’s president. He happens to be African-American. The next one may not be, and they’ll go, “Well, okay.” When they see a woman president, that will be normal to them as well. That’s the change.

I was talking with one of my law partners the other day, who happens to be White, and his granddaughter was visiting him over the Father’s Day weekend (and they live in New Jersey) and she’s 5 or 6 years old. She had cutout dolls that little girls often play with. Her cutout dolls were Michelle Obama. She was absolutely happy and thrilled to be playing with a cutout doll of Michelle Obama. For her it didn’t make any difference if Michelle Obama’s skin color wasn’t the same as hers, it was the First Lady of the United States. That was sort of cool.
He thought back to his daughter that when she was 5 years old that that never would have happened. She never would have had a Black cutout doll. For no reason other than they just wouldn’t be (first of all you probably wouldn’t have

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bought one), yeah it just wouldn’t have happened. That’s the hope. That it’ll be so inconsequential to people that it really will be as Dr. King said, it’ll be about the content of your character. It’ll be about who you are as a person, whether you are a good person, or a person I can get along with or not. All it will be about is the person you are, whether you are African-American, Native American, Southeast Asian, I mean all that stuff will just blur and all that stuff will be, (people will say) “Okay, that’s Bob. I don’t care if Bob is Black or White, it’s Bob and I hate Bob.” (Laughs)

So anyway, that’s the hope. We have a ways to go. But I am extremely happy, from my perspective, to see the progress from where things were to where they are today. I wish it were better, but I sure as hell am not about to argue that it is not better. It is certainly much, much better than it has ever been.

What about, what role, in light of the recent New Haven Firefighters decision, Supreme Court (and a lot of people think that affirmative action as we know it is threatened by the conservative majority in the Supreme Court), what role do you think is left to play or what role does affirmative action have to play in a world where, you know, Barack Obama has become president and Eric Holder is attorney general, etc.?

Sure.
What do you think about that?
Well, as I may have mentioned, I teach a course in local government at the law school at Howard University. These kinds of things are things I pay a bit more attention because they do affect local government’s ability to function and the

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rules of the road for hiring and those kinds of things. I think that that Barack Obama and Eric Holder are two stellar, highly qualified individuals, and it’s hard to argue that either of them shouldn’t be where they are, that they somehow are flukes — the objective data just doesn’t support that. I also think it’s also easy to fall into the trap that because that has happened, you know, the panacea is here. That’s just not true.
Uh hum.
I think there’s still hard work to be done. I think that again there are people of my generation who are not over it yet and we have to wait for those people to get off the scene. Until that happens I think we need to make sure that some of the old habits that have certainly died hard have their proper death (Laughter), that we’ve killed them. I think that affirmative action is still critical. I think that people often times continue to misuse the term and make it something in their heads other than what it really is. What affirmative action really is, is about providing opportunities for qualified people to be considered, to have a conversation that would include people who would otherwise not be included in the conversation when you make a hiring decision. It doesn’t mean that somebody who is totally unqualified, because he or she is Black or female, that they ought to be employed just because of their gender or their race. It means that, it is a recognition of part of what I was saying earlier — we know who we know and if we don’t know any Black people, no Black people will ever be part of the consideration. What we are saying to certain public entities where the money is supposed to be spent for everybody who pays taxes, you are obligated to make sure that you consider

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qualified minority and female applicants for the positions, for employment. That’s really all it’s about. Have we constructed, over time, tests that disproportionately discriminate against minority people and women? Yeah, we have. I mean it’s impossible to argue that poll taxes and other tests to be allowed to vote weren’t designed to eliminate minority people from voting. We know in fire departments, I mean look, in the fire departments in every major city in America where they have been sued for racial discrimination, as a matter of fact this goes back for a number of years, the plaintiff firefighters have won — New York City, Detroit, Chicago, Washington DC, Dallas, TX, Los Angeles, CA. We know these things have happened.

When you say, those things didn’t happen, it’s not really racism, it’s about the individual; it’s not about gauging an individual and his or her worth because there’s scads of cases that say it’s just not the way it goes. So, what to do? I think the most recent decision by the Supreme Court last month is a lot of noise about a small matter because I think the reality is that most jurisdictions have moved beyond the kind of test that was used in the Ricci case. It’s really not something that is going to happen again and again and again. In fact, I was talking to a guy yesterday who was explaining that his son who has dyslexia wanted to be a firefighter and he was allowed to take the test verbally as opposed to sitting for a written test. Now, when you make those kinds of adjustments because you understand that the written test in and of itself isn’t necessarily a measure of your competence to be a firefighter. If you know what to do, but because you’re dyslexic you can’t sit and take that test in the time allowed to truly

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test your knowledge, and you are willing to give that person the test verbally so he or she can respond.
Uh hum.
You know, well, (then) tests can be done in ways that disadvantage people. Tests are not necessarily absolute. A test is not pure. It doesn’t mean that because I sat down and made a test that everybody ought to be able to take this test and perform well, and if you don’t perform well it means that you’re not competent. That’s not what that means. We know from all from all kinds of psychometric studies that you can do testing all kinds of ways to test things and you don’t always test it accurately. The Ricci case is a lot of noise about a relatively small matter. I still think that affirmative action is important to make sure that when the hiring decisions are made, we find a way to be as inclusive as possible of the total population of the community — Black, White, Asian, female, Native American, whatever. We ought to give people the opportunity to be considered who might not otherwise be considered because we don’t know them. Fire departments are legendary for being clannish. First, it was the Irish. Then, the whatever. You tell your friends and neighbors, your relatives and they wind up going down to the hall to be employed. That’s fine. I would never tell somebody who is the grandson of a firefighter that they should not be allowed or be encouraged to participate in a family tradition if that’s how they see it. But, you’re not the only one who had the prerogative to start a family tradition. Maybe these Native Americans want to be firefighters and have firefighters run through their families for eighteen generations. I don’t know. Put them in the room and find out if they

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can meet the test (that hopefully is subjective enough to say this is what a firefighter should do as opposed to what a firefighter who is my nephew ought to be able to do). (Laughter) I just think we have a bad public narrative about affirmative action and it just makes it real difficult to get to what the essence of it is as opposed to what the political theater of it is. I mean there are people who are just totally disingenuous who have totally distorted what it is because it works for whatever political agenda they’ve got — on both sides. I do not believe that the side that is pro-affirmative action is pure either. I think they have distorted it too. Well, I’m gonna turn the conversation in another direction at this point.
Sure.
I wanted to talk a little bit in order to close the circle in this oral history, to talk about your last 10 to 15 years in law practice. In previous sessions we’ve talked about your younger years and here in the transcripts it looks like we left off at around mid-90s. And, so I was wondering if, I’ll just throw an open-ended question at you, if you could maybe first provide an outline of what you’ve done in the last 15 years or so? And, to talk about some of your, some of the interesting matters that you’ve worked on, some of the interesting clients you’ve had. I can think of one in particular that might be interesting to talk about (Mr. Cooke Laughs). So I’m just going to let you have the floor.
I think that probably over the last 15 years or so I’ve been practicing here at Rubin, Winston, Diercks, Harris and Cooke and our practice has essentially been local which is what I wanted to do. I wanted to try to build a local practice and to work on things that affected the community in which I have lived my entire life

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and about which I care very much. I really have tried to focus on things like that. There’s somewhat of a fantasy I had of sort of bringing back the small practitioner days of the 60s or 70s which, of course, can’t happen. What I did or have done and probably continue to do relates to maybe three or four different things fundamentally. A lot of it has to do with helping people with their interaction with the government of the District of Columbia. I have done a lot of work for people, clients, entities who have had to deal with the government, and I have tried to help them deal with the maze, as I said. I’ve done a fair amount of sort of business transactional work — helping people in business, irrespective of whether they had to deal with the government or not. Just trying to help them in their business — buying a business, selling a business, operating a business in some way (a lot of financing, some re-financing), lines of credit, stock purchases, employment agreements for senior employees, trying to help a senior employee exit a company successfully. I’ve done civil and criminal litigation. Usually in the Superior Court, but also in the District Court as well as the D.C. Court of Appeals and the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on a [SIDE B] bunch of different issues and that’s been fun. I guess the other category would be sort of the board, commission sort of stuff — serving on boards and working with boards and commissions or doing things here in the city that I think are constructive and I’d like to be a part of either as a lawyer or as a board member (may not be working as a lawyer but just working as a board member trying to make the organization more successful).

What are some of the boards and commissions that you’ve worked with? 227

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Hmmm.
Too many to name?
Well, it’s not too many to name. You know, I sort of forget. I was on the Board of Governors of the Bar obviously. I was a Hearing Committee Member for the Board on Professional Responsibility. I serve on different boards, different committees appointed by the D.C. Board of Appeals, Superior Court to work on Bar and Bench kind of activities. I was on the Board of Unity Health Care which used to be health care for the homeless here in the city as well as a big health care provider here in the city. I was on the Board of Archbishop John Carroll High School. I was counsel to the Board of the Community Academy Public Charter School. I was on the board of I don’t know I forget. There’s more of them, I forget all these boards.
But anyway, on different boards that were all involved in education obviously, I think education is very important, you know the real reason I’m doing what I’m doing and have been able to do what I’m doing is education. Without it I would not be able to that. I think it is a real, real premium we should attach to education. It is a way out of difficult circumstances for many, many people. A lack of education traps people into very difficult circumstances. We’ve known for years that the average felon incarcerated in the District of Columbia has a 10th grade education in terms of numbers but has a functional 8th grade education. There’s a reason that these people are in the situation they are. A lot of it has to do with the lack of education. An inability to appreciate possibilities and to make choices that are better than the choices they’ve made. So, I think education is important. I’ve

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tried to be, in terms of clients I represent and in terms of some of my public service, I guess time commitment, to be involved with things that are associated with education trying to bring improvement to folks here in the District. Obviously, at the Bar I think there’s an obligation all of us as lawyers have to try to make the Bar more functional (Mr. Kempf Laughs) and not to be this sort of stiff non-involved entity that just kind of figures a way for lawyers to make more money. When you look at the Bar there’s a huge under representation of minority lawyers, there’s a huge under representation of lawyers from small firms. The small firm thing is neither Black nor white it’s a question of time. Do you have the time to put the resources or the commitment that the Board of Governors of some Bar activity would require? A lot of times you just don’t. I was fortunate that I did have the time and so I gave some time and I was happy to do it. I think you bring a perspective to that discussion that there isn’t always there because the group is largely self-selected. It’s usually a bunch of people who are very similar to each other and they sort of talk to themselves. That’s fine except the Bar, 75- 80,000 members large is more than that. It’s more than the Covington & Burling and the Arent Fox and the Arnold and Porters of the world, which are great law firms. I’m not criticizing them at all, but they don’t have the perspective that a guy like me has. They don’t have the perspective that a small firm practitioner has. We need to help bring that perspective to the equation as well, to the discussion rather as well.

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Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke:

I’ve done those kind of things and that’s sort of what I’ve been doing over the last 15 or so years. You know, with more or less success. I have some really weird adventures, some successes and some colossal failures too, I guess.
Can you elaborate on the weird adventures at all? In particular, I’m wondering if you can talk about your work, to the extent that you can, the work that you’ve done for Marion Barry?

Marion Barry, one of my more famous clients. Marion Barry hired me to be his Corporation Counsel in late 1986 and I took the job literally the 2nd or 3rd of January ‘87, one of those kind of crazy things.
Did you know him beforehand, personally?

Knew him but not that well. I knew him because of his involvement with SNCC and he’d appeared at a number of things that I had gone to over time so I knew who he was. He knows everybody. He remembered seeing me at these things, but we had no real relationship other than I knew he was a guy from the civil rights movement who had evolved to becoming the mayor.

We had a really good attorney-client relationship, in my opinion. He was a frustrating client in some ways, but an excellent client in many other ways because he was smart (he is smart). He understands the difference between lawyers and clients. He understands that you’re giving advice and that he can take it or not, and he never blames the lawyers because when it was his decision he was willing to make the decision. He would take your advice and other advice as well and once he made a decision, if he decided to take the advice that you had given him and make that the base of his decision and if it didn’t turn out well he

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never blamed the lawyers. Because it was his decision. He said, “I made the decision, you didn’t. You gave me advice. I thought it made sense.” I said, ‘Yeah.’ “You didn’t make me do it.” He’d always tell me, “You can’t make me do anything. You’re just a lawyer and you tell me what you think, and if I like it I like it and if I don’t, I don’t.” So, in that sense he was a great client.

So we had a pretty good relationship. I did the best I could to represent the city. He had legal counsel as the mayor, Herbert Reid was his personal lawyer. Dr. Reid was a guy that I knew, one of my teachers in law school. I got along pretty well with Dr. Reid, although he and I didn’t always agree and that was fine. I think that what Mr. Barry appreciated about what I did for him and the government was that I really wasn’t political. I really was trying to do the best I could and there wasn’t any other agenda to that. It was if you asked me to do something and I believed I could do it, then I’m going to give you the best I have. He appreciated that and that I was pretty discreet. I didn’t run out and tell people all kinds of stuff that they shouldn’t know about.

Oftentimes people ask me, “Why do you do this stuff for Marion? He’s such a crazy man and he’s done all this bad stuff?” I tell people for the very simple reason that I refuse to allow this community or any significant piece of it to fail to appreciate what he’s done for us. Now, he has done stuff that I will not, cannot condone. I tell people all the time that I’m never going to defend the bullsh*t, just not going to do it. I tell him that. We have these very candid conversations. The reality, however, is that for a guy like me, if a guy like Marion Barry had not come along, I wouldn’t be doing this. He created the art of the possible. He took

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the cap off the ceiling. He showed us that we could do things that we never thought we could do in this city. There had never been anybody that stood up to the power structure or whatever you want to call it. Stood up to the Congress and said, “Wait a minute, this is messed up and you guys have got to fix this.” Marion is part of that narrative. He is not ‘the’ guy, he is ‘part’ of that narrative. When he became mayor the first time and he hired all these young Black people to be city administrator, to be director of finance and revenue, to be in charge of public works, it was like unbelievable. It was like people asking with amazement “You mean these people are out there, they can do these jobs?” I think everybody pretty much agrees that Marion’s first term was just fantastically successful. It was a phenomenal thing. For me, he created that possibility, that the sky is the limit sort of mentality is very important to this city. He made it possible for the economic engine that the city is to have a benefit to people in this city — Black and White. What I don’t want people to do is to put him off, assign him to some trash bin of history without really appreciating him. I feel very appreciative of what he’s done for me and for many people of this city. That’s why I do what I do to represent him. I am oftentimes disappointed at the things he does, and I tell him that. Lawyers are not our clients, we represent our clients and so I’m representing him.
That is how I began this representation experience that I’ve had with Marion Barry through many, many, many interactions with the justice system, and (Laughter) in all of its permutations. He just won’t stop. He’s incredible. You know, we deal with it. We do stuff and I’ve wound up doing some pretty

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Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke: Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke:

Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke:

interesting work for him in the Court of Appeals on issues; and in the trial court, obviously, on a couple of occasions; dealing with the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility, we’ve filed complaints about treatment; negotiating, obviously, with the U.S. Attorneys Office and the Department of Justice; the Office of Campaign Finance; the Internal Revenue Service, the State Department when we take trips out of the country and we have some issues there from time to time. You know, so we do a lot of stuff. (Laughs) It’s really interesting, professionally. It’s really quite fascinating in a lot of ways, you know. We’ve done work for, negotiated film contracts, agreements or documents for agreements to do films about his life.

Really?
Yeah, and we do all kinds.
Are there plans to make films or a film?
Yes. There’s a documentary that’s out now that’s going to be on HBO in August, that’s going to be shown rather on HBO in August. Then there’s another theatrical piece that’s in the works.
Is the HBO documentary only about him?
Oh yes. It’s all about him. It’s called, The Nine Lives of Marion Barry. It was shown here at the AFI Film Theater up in Silver Spring in a documentary festival they had. It was one of the docs that was shown there. It’s like I said it’s going to be on HBO and all this stuff. I forget the day. Sometime in the middle of month. But, it’s about him. It’s about his life. It’s The Nine Lives of Marion Barry.
Are you interviewed?

Mr. Kempf:

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Mr. Cooke:

Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke: Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke: Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke:

Mr. Kempf:

Mr. Cooke: Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke:

No. That was one of the deals. I was like, “Okay we can work on this, but there’s one condition — I’m not in it.” (Laughs) So that was my fee. I was like “I’m not in this.”
And the second, and the other is a theatrical production, you say?

Yes.
So, a real movie.
Yeah, yeah, a real movie.
Is it, you know, have they?
No, we haven’t signed a deal. We have a handshake, but we haven’t signed a package. This is relatively new, relatively recent rather in terms of when we got to the handshake.
I see. Wow. Who do you think should play Marion Barry? I’m curious about that.
I don’t know. I don’t know if there’s anybody with quite enough range.
This might be part of the contract. Barry may insist on someone.
He may insist on being himself which is going to be a problem. (Laughter) Book deals, you know, we’ve never, he’s never written a book because he won’t do the book the way it needs to be done. We’ve negotiated book deals. I do all kinds of crazy stuff. It’s just bizarre sometimes. (Laughs) It’s funny. Part of what I like to think about when I do those things is that, you know, I think back to when I was a first year law student, sitting in civil procedure or contracts or whatever. No way I could’ve imagined doing this kind of crazy stuff.

234

Lots of conversations with people who call me and want to bend my ear about whatever they thought about Marion. Some of that’s really, really interesting. There is a huge fan base for Marion, people who are just in almost an idolizing posture with this thing. That’s really kind of interesting. That’s a phenomenon. Then there are people who are more sanguine, who feel regret. Marion has feet of clay. He has imperfections, and they wish he wasn’t quite so imperfect. They’re okay with him mostly. Really, most of Marion’s flaws are self-destructive.

The federal government spent five years and $10 million dollars to get a conviction. They investigated Marion because they thought he was a thief They thought he was corrupt and thought he was stealing money from the government and the citizens of the District of Columbia, in a literal sense. That could not be proven. What they proved was that that wasn’t what he was about. He had obvious vices, no question about that. The investigation was not about, angel or devil, but he wasn’t what they thought he was because that’s not what motivates him. He’s not motivated by money. Yes, he likes money like most people, but that is not the thing that he is really focused on. Yeah, you can talk about how the government was inefficient and therefore the public’s money was wasted because things didn’t happen the way they wanted to.
Philosophically, Marion was kind of simplistic. You can have all kinds of arguments about this but Marion’s view in a lot of ways was, “I would rather pay somebody to work in the government (at an essentially made up job) than I would have them sit at home and get a check every month from the government as any form of welfare. The government is going to be spending money one way or the

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Mr. Kempf:

other, and if I pay this person to work (even at a made up job), may be that will habituate them. Maybe that will get them into the workforce. Maybe that will get them into a work mindset. They’re going to be paying taxes, those taxes can be used to help other people to do other things. That money that they get gives them a greater sense of self-worth than they would if they were sitting on their butt at home. You can argue that that’s sort of too simplistic. That was really, for him, what it came down to in a lot ways. He got criticized for having bloated government, inefficient government, and a lot of that criticism is true. But for him the real question wasn’t about do I have 5,000 employees or 2,500 employees. Instead the question was am I going to send this money in the form of a welfare check, or am I going to send this money out in the form of a paycheck? For him that’s what the analysis was. Now, you can argue about the merits of that analysis, but it wasn’t venal. It wasn’t motivated in some sort of negative principle. It was like he thought this was the best way for him as the leader of the Government to provide the maximum good to the maximum level.

Let me close the circle on Barry. Obviously, there’s so much interest in him and his life with books, movies. I guess one thing I want to do is clarify your current and previous relationship with him. Then the second thing is to ask a question about what you think his legacy will be? So first of all, are you sort of his personal lawyer or what would you call yourself?

Yes, I’m his personal lawyer. Yes.
That’d be the best way to…and you’ve been that for? That’s been since ’91 or ’92.

Mr. Cooke: Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke:

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Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke: Mr. Kempf: written. Mr. Cooke:

And David Wilmot?
Yea, I do more than David.
And, Part 2 — what do you think his legacy will be? There’s going to be a lot

Yes. He’s 73 and he’s had an incredible life. I think that time is going to be the best ally he has. I think the further you get away from incidents, the more objective the assessment will be. I think right now, unfortunately, to too many people he is largely a cartoon. Sort of caricature, a buffoonish, oversexed, drug- crazed politician. I think he is much more complex than that honestly. He is a very, very bright man. It sort of fascinates me that people who don’t like Marion, who are prepared not to like Marion when they sit down and talk to him, they almost always come out with a different view of him than when they went in. One of the first things they realize is that he’s really pretty smart. He’s smarter than I am probably. I think that that’s what time is going to do for him. People are going to begin to appreciate how good he was in life then and how complicated he was. I think, again, you know the public largely wants scandal. We’re talking about Governor Sanford now because we like scandal. I can’t imagine what Governor Sanford’s life is like right now.

He (Sanford) needs to be quiet.
Yeah, that would be good.
Stop talking to the press. (Laughs)
But, we like scandal and we like to mock the people involved in the scandal. I think these scandals and this sort of 24 hour news thing is about to burn itself out

Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke: Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke:

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Mr. Kemp: Mr. Cooke:

in the sense that people’s fascination with it as being significant, I think what happens is we get desensitized to it. I think we see it so often, so much that we go, “Okay, get me a baseball game, something else on.” They give you this coverage that’s excessive and you just kind of go, “I don’t really care that much anymore.” (Laughs)

Yeah. It’s ridiculous.
(Saying to yourself) “Let him and his wife work that out. Why am I watching this?” I think that that’s what helps Marion. I think that people will have a different view. I think that we evolve on these issues and these things get to be more proportionate than they were at the time. When Marion’s drug trial was going on it was the most insane mob scene I had ever seen — camera crews, news crews from around the world were jammed in that little space in front of the courthouse watching him go in and out of it. It was just incredible.
In what year was that trial?
That was in 199…the trial was in ’91. It was just unbelievable. I left the bureau in ’90 and he got busted later on that year so the trial was in ’91. I think his legacy will ultimately be that of probably up to this point “the best mayor the city has had.” That’s going to take some doing, a little bit, but I think that Walter Washington who I really think gets badly treated historically. I think he was a very good man given the facts and circumstances of when he got to be mayor, first mayor after home rule and totally dysfunctional municipal government, it didn’t exist. There was no government. It was an agency of the government, a branch of government. It was not a government. He had to create one, and

Mr. Kemp: Mr. Cooke:

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Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke:

Mr. Kempf:

Mr. Cooke:

Marion came after him. Then, Sharon (Pratt-Kelly), then we have Marion again, but then we have Tony (Williams), who gets a lot of credit that he doesn’t deserve. (Inaudible phrase) This is not attacking Tony personally. Tony will tell you this, he is very self-effacing. He is not stuck on himself at all. Then you have Adrian (Fenty), who I think is not doing a good job

So I think that up through the first five mayors, he’s (Marion) certainly the best one. The best mayor of the city. The best, the person who best understood the government and how to make it work, for good and bad. (Laughter) For good and bad, it’s not like everything he did was right.

I think that ultimately his legacy will be a positive one. But, like I said, it’s going to be tough because of his personal things, it’s just so heavy, just large and heavy (Laughs). There’re so many things that people know and assume, lots of stuff. There’s lots of stuff that people hear which isn’t true and lots of stuff people hear that’s absolutely true but just hasn’t gotten into the newspaper yet. One of my jobs is to keep stuff out of the newspaper.

(Laughs) You can talk about it now.
Keep the media from finding out about it. I joke about it with my friends in the media who call me up and I go, “Boy, you guys are late on this one.” You know. “I thought I had gotten it past you.” (Laughter) You try to minimize media exposure.
Exactly. Fascinating. It’s incredible that of all the scandals recently they’ve been White, male Republicans that have been, isn’t that odd? What does that say? Isn’t that odd, and what does that say?

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Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke:

Mr. Kempf:

Mr. Cooke:

Well?
If it says anything. I don’t know that it does. It just strikes me, that uniformity.
(I ask) What’s wrong with those guys? (Laughs)
You wonder too if African-Americans when they are caught up in a scandal if they’re judged with a certain set of…
I think so but…. Bill Jefferson who’s now (Congressman Jefferson), who’s now on trial in his own scandal — money, corruption — is hard to explain. I know Jeff has an explanation, but I’m not quite comfortable with it. (Laughs) I’m sure that his lawyers are doing the best they can. I think the criticism of Bill in that regard is pretty fair. It’s tough to justify what Bill’s done. I feel bad for him and his family because I think fundamentally he’s a pretty good guy. I wish he hadn’t come to this.
Right.
But, there’s others that you wonder what all the hubbub is about and at the end of the day the talking heads on TV keep talking about how the differentiation in the Democrat and the Republican sex scandal is that the Democrats ultimately have to resign and the Republicans try to keep their jobs. Why is that? I saw on Sunday, what’s his name, the senator from South Carolina?
DeMint? No. John McCain’s buddy, I know exactly who you’re talking about, it’s….
I can’t think of his name. You’re getting old when you can’t recollect, this is terrible. But, anyway, I saw this senator on TV and he was explaining…. (Interjects) Lindsey Graham.

Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke:

Mr. Kempf:

Mr. Cooke:

Mr. Kempf:

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Mr. Cooke:

Lindsey Graham. They asked Senator Graham, “What do you think about your fellow South Carolinian, your governor?” He said, “Well, the governor’s a personal friend of mine. I’m the godfather of his youngest son. Obviously, this is not just business for me, this is personal.” I get that. And then, he says, “So I think the best, first thing he needs to do, the thing that ought to happen he ought to figure out if he can salvage his marriage to Jenny.” What struck me when he said that was, now here you are you’re a senator elected by the citizens of South Carolina and your response to the government, the governor issue is that ‘he ought to work it out with his wife’ (paraphrasing). Well, what about the people of South Carolina. I mean, aren’t you concerned about them. I get the personal thing. I have had bunches of friends who have gone down that crazy road and I’ve felt very badly for them, both the husband and the wife because I may have been friends with both. But, when you are a senator for South Carolina it seems to me that you ought to be concerned about what’s good for South Carolina as opposed to what works for your friend. Don’t you? It’s just, you can’t say that on national television. That’s a conversation you have with Governor Sanford. That’s a conversation you have with your wife. You don’t say that on national television because it makes you look like, (you’re really saying) we’ve gotta work this out with him and his wife and we’ll get back to the people. (Laughs)

Yeah, when it’s your friend and your politically ally then it’s ‘oh, something he has to work out with his family.’ But when it’s somebody in the other party you would…
(Interjects) “He’s got to leave?”

Mr. Kempf:

Mr. Cooke:

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Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke:

Mr. Kempf Mr. Cooke: Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke: Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke: Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke: Mr. Kempf: Mr. Cooke:

I know. And when it’s Barry, it’s you know.
I think that those kind of things are such a double standard, an inconsistency or an insincerity about it.
It’s politics.
(Agrees) It’s politics. Ever thus.
I think I have fired away all my questions.
Okay.
Is there anything that you would like to add?
Oh, lord.
Particularly, about your last, if there’s anything about the last few years.
No. I don’t know.
You have a chance to do a letter after reviewing the transcript.
I don’t think so. I think that I’ve had a great time with this the thing. I probably should have been more purposed on making money, but that was never why I got into this and so it has never really been a high priority to the dismay of my wife and family from time to time. I have had a great time. I’ve done a lot of things that I wanted to do. A lot of things I never thought I’d get the opportunity to do. I’ve been involved in some good things with the city in terms of being a part of helping bring the Convention Center and the Verizon Center to fruition; the Hospitality High School (something I spent a lot of time on, with a lot of other people), trying to bring that to fruition to give some opportunities to kids to work in the hospitality industry, to get the academic and practical underpinning that they need to go forward in that area. I have had an opportunity to teach at the

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Mr. Kempf:
Mr. Cooke: [END OF TAPE]

Howard University School of Law, which has been a great, great experience to try to help shape some new, young legal minds (or maybe warp them).
So, it’s been a lot of fun to do these things and hopefully at the end of the day to have a scorecard that says that I contributed more than I got. That’s really sort of the ultimate objective, to be a contributor.

Well, this transcript will be a part of the scorecard!
Yeah, that’s right. It will be in the vault of the Historical Society.

243

ORAL HISTORY OF FREDERICK DOUGLAS COOKE JR. Index

ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), 208 ambulance(s) service delivery, 139-40, 144, 201
Amos, Carmen, 202
Amos, Kent, 202

Arent Fox, 229
Arnold and Porter, 229

Bardon, Don, 90
Barry, Marion, 99, 105, 110, 116-18, 128, 136, 139, 161, 166, 197, 211, 230-34, 236, 242

advances (retreats), 138 Fisk University

PhD Chemistry, 118
National Conference of Black Mayors, 144
Pride, Inc., 107, 118
Ramada Inn incident, 131, 170
SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), 107 Vista Hotel arrest, 141, 182

Battle of Rorke’s Drift, 92
Baxt, Lenny, 84
Bell, Hattie (maternal grandmother), 1
Black Entertainment and Sports Lawyers Association (BESLA), 101
Black Entertainment and Sports Lawyers Association formerly Black Entertainment Lawyers

Association (BELA), 99 Bolling v. Sharpe, 13 Bouknight, Reynard, 26 Bradley, Tom, 93

Brittain, John, 43, 47-48
Brown v. Board of Education, 13, 16 Brown, James, 74-75
Brown, Willie, 93
Bryant, Bill, 59
Business Week, 216

Cable Television Design Commission, 90 Cheney, James, 64
Chisholm, Elwood, 38
Christian Coalition, 208

Clayton, Buck, 75-76
Cohen, Vinnie, 102
Cole, Carol Thompson, 132, 154, 168
Comcast Corporation, 90
Community Academy Public Charter School, 200

A-1

Cooke, Annie Leon Ellis (mother), 1-3, 6, 16, 19, 68-69, 76, 94 protective, 12

sickness and death, 65, 72 Cooke, Calvin (brother), 14-15
Cooke, Deborah (sister), 14-15
Cooke, Frederick Douglas, Jr.- Personal

Air Force, 26-27, 31-32, 44, 50, 52, 59-60, 62, 63- 67, 77- 81, 85, 87, 192 Chief of Military Justice, 73
Cocoa Beach, 57, 71-72, 84
InterService Transfer, 69

Second lieutenant, 84
Andrews Air Force Base, 65
Banneker Junior High School, 8, 19 Baptist Church, 56, 67-68
birth, 1
Bolling Air Force Base, 65 Bruce-Monroe Elementary School, 15-16 civil rights demonstrations, 6
decision to become a lawyer, 32-33 District of Columbia

racial aspect change, 18
Griffith Stadium, 16-17
Howard University, 9, 12, 16, 23- 29, 33- 35, 39, 41-43, 55, 61, 80, 96, 118, 171, 182, 188,

217-18, 222, 243 controversies, 29 experience, 56-57 jazz, 28
psychology degree, 36 ROTC, 25-27

Howard University Law School, 36, 182, 243 curriculum, 39

Ford Foundation Scholarship, 36, 38 law review, 23, 40, 57, 61
LSAT, 33-34
magna cum laude, 23-24 Mississippi Project, 41-42

Jenner and Block, 57-58
JozArz Therapeutic Charter High School, 200 Judge Advocate General Department, 77 McKinley Technical High School, 9, 25, 28

behavior, deportment problem, 19 engineering and physics program, 9
Junior ROTC, 25, 41-5, 47, 48-50, 53, 57-59 virulent racism, 44

music, 73-76
National Conference of Law Reviews, 40, 61

A-2

North Mississippi Rural Legal Services, 41 Patrick Air Force Base, 52, 78
political involvement, 109, 216 Professional Officers Corps (POC), 27 Ramstein Air Force Base, 79

Raymond Elementary School, 15-16, 18-19 Temptations, 74
University of Southern Illinois, 10-12
U.S. Attorneys Office (summer job), 58, 60

Cooke, Frederick Douglas, Jr.- Professional
Black Entertainment and Sports Lawyers Association formerly Black Entertainment Lawyers

Association, 99
Board of Archbishop John Carroll High School, 228
Board of Governors of the Bar, 228
Board of Professional Responsibility, 198
Board of the Community Academy Public Charter School, 228 Board of Trustees of the Public Defender Service, 196
Board of Unity Health Care, 228
cable television, 86

devoid of minorities and women, 87

franchising, 183
Cable Television Design Commission, 90
Commission on Judicial Tenure and Disability, 197
Community Academy Public Charter School, 200
Convention Center. See Walter E. Washington Convention Center
Corporation Counsel, 19, 105-07, 109, 111-12, 115, 116-18, 120-21, 124-28, 131, 134, 141-

42, 142, 149-50, 152, 166-67, 182, 211, 230 Corporation for Public Broadcasting, 84
D.C. Bar Board of Governors, 195
Dow Lohnes and Albertson, 80, 84, 117, 171, 174, 176

hiring committee, 98, 176 litigation, 173
partner, 117

Fannie Mae, 78
Federal Communications Bar Association, 99
Federal Elections Commission (FEC), 207
Hearing Committee Member for the Board of Professional Responsibilities, 197, 228 higher education work, 81, 95
Hinckley, John, 127
Hospitality High School, 242
intellectual property work, 81, 97, 101
KILII radio (Rosebud Indian Reservation in Porcupine, SD), 96
Marriott Hospitality Charter School, 200
Merrill Lynch, 178
National Association of Attorneys General, 142
National Bar Association, 102

A-3

National Basketball Players Association, 177 National Conference of Black Lawyers, 103

Communications Task Force, 102
National Football League Players Association, 177
National Hockey League Players Association, 188
National Telecommunications Information Administration, 83 overcrowding at the D.C. Jail and Lorton Prison, 121
Rubin, Winston, Diercks, Harris & Cooke, 173, 226

partner, 103
St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, 125
statehood issue, 188
telecommunications work, 87, 171
The National Rainbow Coalition, 175
transactional work, 117
United States Patent and Trademark Office, 173
Urban Family Institute, 202
U.S. Attorneys Office, 63
Verizon Center, 242
Washington Bar Association, 102
Washington Convention Center. See Walter E. Washington Convention Center youth violence, 215

Cooke, Frederick Douglas, Sr. (father), 2-7, 9, 10, 12, 17, 49, 63-64, 72, 109-10, 117 Army, 2-3
Baptist Church, 76
cab driver, 76-77

Navy Department mail clerk, 3
Cooke, Herbert (paternal grandfather), 2
Cooke, Michelle Anne (daughter), 101
Cooke, Rachel (daughter), 17
Cooke, Vanessa (sister), 14
Cooke, William (Billy) (brother), 14
Copyright Revision Act of 1976, 83
Cornell University, 37, 104
Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA), 165 Covington & Burling, 105, 116
Cox Communications, 88-91
crack epidemic, 142, 144

Davis, Tom, 193
DeMint, Jim, 240
Democratic National Committee, 207 diGenova, Joe, 113, 118, 128 Dinkins, David, 93
D.C. District of Columbia

Home Rule, 218-19, 238
Office of the Attorney General (formerly Corporation Counsel), 111

A-4

race factor in statehood issue, 194
Receiving Home for Children, 157
Dow Lohnes and Albertson, 80, 84, 117, 171, 174, 176

hiring committee, 98, 176 litigation, 173
partner, 117

Downs, Tom, 139
Draper, George, 61, 78, 81, 103 Dyke, Jim, 106

Eagleton, Thomas, 61
Eikenberry, Ken, 143
Elliot, Inez, 22
Ellis, Hayward (maternal grandfather), 1

FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), 31, 113, 128, 147, 163, 212 FCC (Federal Communications Commission), 88, 93, 97

Minority Ownership Task Force Report, 81 Federal Elections Commission (FEC), 206-07 Fenty, Adrian, 239
Golden, Don, 90, 105-09, 116

Goode, Wilson, 93 Graham, Lindsey, 240 Gregg, Donna, 91 Gregory, Robin, 28 Griffith Stadium, 16-17

Hamer, Fannie Lou, 52 Harvard University, 34 Hinckley, John, 126-27

John Howard Pavilion, 127
Holder, Eric, 221-23
homicides, 141
Hospitality High School, 242
Howard University, 9, 12, 16, 23- 29, 33- 35, 39, 41-43, 55, 61, 80, 96, 118, 171, 182, 188, 217-

18, 222, 243 controversies, 29 experience, 56-57 jazz, 28
psychology degree, 36 ROTC, 25-27

Howard University Law School, 36, 182, 243 curriculum, 39
law review, 57
Mississippi Project, 41-42

Howard University School of Social Work, 162 A-5

Howard University Theater, 75 Humphrey, Skip, 143

Jackson, Alfonso, 161
Jackson, Jesse, 47, 85, 93, 175-76, 187-90, 206

The National Rainbow Coalition, 176, 206, 208 Jackson, Maynard, 193
Jarvis, Charlene Drew, 99
Jefferson, Bill, 240

Jenner and Block, 57-58 John Howard Pavilion, 127

See also St. Elizabeth’s Hospital
Jordan, Vernon, 102
JozArz Therapeutic Charter High School, 200 juvenile violence, 142

Keary, Ann O’Regan, 125 Kelly, Sharon Pratt, 178, 239 Kennard, Francis, 32 Kennedy, Ted, 190

KILII radio station (Rosebud Indian Reservation in Porcupine, SD), 96 King, Martin Luther, 30, 32, 51, 222
Ku Klux Klan, 5

Lewis, Delano, 168 Lewis, John, 32 Lockridge, Calvin, 155-56 Look (magazine), 50 Lorton Reformatory, 138

overcrowding, 121 Louis, Joe, 100

Marriott Hospitality Charter School, 200 Marshall, Thurgood, 38
martial law in the District of Columbia, 30 Matthews, Jack, 91

McKinley Technology High School, 8, 9, 13, 20, 24, 28 McMillan, John, 195
Miller, Arnie, 106
Mississippi, 41-45, 47-50, 53, 57-59

shotgun houses, 45

virulent racism, 49-51 Moore, Luke, 59 Moore, Rasheeda, 131 Morris, Sammie, 153 Mundy, Ken, 170

A-6

Nabrit, Jim, 38
National Conference of Black Mayors, 144 National League of Cities, 144
New Haven Firefighters decision, 222 Newman, Ted, 154
North Carolina, 1, 3, 5, 6, 12, 16, 44, 68, 77

racism, 5-7, 45 segregation, 2, 4-5

Oak Hill Center, 157
Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, 146
Office of the U.S Attorney, 58, 62, 97, 127, 165-66, 223

diGenova, Joe, 113, 118, 128
local agencies and, 163-64
investigation of the government of Marion Barry, 113 juvenile prosecution, 142

Paula, Carlos, 17
Pendleton, Florence, 189
Perry, Bill, 84
Perry, Elnore (maternal grandmother), 2 Price, Warren, 143
Pride Inc, 118
Public Safety Cluster, 152

racial transition in DC, 18 racism, 5, 7, 45, 51, 218, 224 Ramsey, Henry, 182
Ray, Gil, 35, 57

Reagan Administration, 82
Reid, Herbert, 107, 118, 231
Reid, Inez Smith, 117
Republican National Committee, 207 Rhodes, George, 22-23

Ricci v. DeStefano, 224
Rogers, Judith (Judy), 142
ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps), 24, 26, 30 Rowan, Carl, Jr., 146, 209-13, 215
Rubin, Winston, Diercks, Harris & Cooke, 173, 226

Sanders, Alex, 44
Sanford, Mark, 237
Saturday Evening Post (magazine), 50 Sayers, Gale, 93
school violence, 156

A-7

Schwartz, Carol, 99
segregation in rural North Carolina, 4
Sharpton, Al, 177
Sherwood, Tom, 141
Shuker, Bob, 60
Smith, Clay, 35, 56
St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, 125-26, 128
Starling, Merlin, 63
Steptoe and Johnson, 101
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), 107, 118, 192, 230 Suda, John, 116
Sutton, Percy, 85, 90-91, 93, 96, 176

Tasby, Willie, 17
Taylor,, Charles, 131
TCI (TeleCommunications, Inc.), 90
Teague, Josephine, 18
Temptations, 91
The Miseducation of the Negro (Carter G. Woodson), 51 The National Rainbow Coalition, 175-76, 206-08

See also Jackson, Jesse
The Nine Lives of Marion Barry (movie), 233 The Washington Informer, 210
The Washington Post, 67, 141, 206, 208 Thomas, Henry, 20
Till, Emmett, 49-50
Toohey, Daniel, 80-81, 84
Treadwell, Mary, 107
Turkus, Al, 97
Turner, Maurice, 153

Unity Health Care, Inc. (formerly Health Care for the Homeless), 183, 198-99 Urban Family Institute, 202

Verizon Center, 242 Vietnam War, 26, 29, 66 Virginia

racism, 5

Wagner, Annice, 197
Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 242 Washington Senators, 17
Washington, Eric, 153
Washington, Harold, 93
Washington, Walter, 238
Washingtonian Magazine, 192

A-8

WCHB (Detrit radio station), 90 We Were Soldiers (movie), 26 White, John, 141, 168 Williams, Hal, 158, 170 Williams, Tony, 239

Wilmot, David, 237
Woods, Marion Jerome, 136 Wright, Bob, 89

youth violence, 215 Zax, Leonard, 178

A-9

ORAL HISTORY OF FREDERICK DOUGLAS COOKE JR. Cases and Statutes

Cases

Bolling v. Sharpe, 347 U.S. 497 (1954), 13
Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), 13, 16 Ricci v. DeStefano, 557 U.S. 557 (2009), 238

Statutes

Copyright Revision Act of 1976, Pub. L. No. 94-553, 90 Stat. 2541, 1976, 83 District of Columbia Home Rule Act, Public Law 93-198; 87 Stat. 774, 218-19, 238

B-1

PERSONAL INFORMATION
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
Frederick D. Cooke, Jr.
1201 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 200
Washington, D.C. 20036
202-861-0870

Born Washington, D.C. May 26, 1947 Four daughters (51,41,33, and 31) EXPERIENCE

October 1991 to Present – Partner with Rubin, Winston, Diercks, Harris & Cooke working primarily on governmental relations, municipal finance, telecommunications, land use, public contracting, sports, advertising, litigation, intellectual property education, and general corporate matters. Served as legal counsel to the District for the development of the MCI Center, and as legal counsel to the Hotel Association (and others) on the development of the new Convention Center. Served as an Adjunct Professor of Law at the Howard University School of Law teaching Municipal Law.

August 1989 to October 1991 – Partner with Dow, Lohnes & Albertson working primarily on governmental relations, telecommunications and general corporate and tax matters.

April 1987 to August 1989 – Corporation Counsel of the District of Columbia (now, the Attorney General for the District of Columbia). Served as chief legal officer of the District with responsibility for all of the law business of the government and its various agencies, departments and instrumentalities. Super-vised the work of more than 185 lawyers and a support staff of 125 persons in diverse areas of practice including appellate and civil litigation, government contracting, juvenile delinquency, child support, child abuse and neglect matters, Medicaid and welfare fraud, consumer affairs, utility regulation, public housing, municipal tax and finance, land use and zoning. Personally provided advice and counsel to the Mayor, City Administrator and heads of agencies and departments.

June 1977 to April 1987 – Dow, Lohnes and Albertson. Elected a partner in 1982 and represented a broad range of clients in telecommunications, entertainment, higher education and general corporate and tax matters.

June 1973 to June 1977 – Captain, United States Air Force, Judge Advocate General’s Department. Served as an Assistant Judge Advocate General handling a wide variety of legal matters including General and Special Courts Martial, government contracting and legal advice and counsel.

June 1972 to June 1973 – Law Clerk to the Honorable George W. Draper, II, Associate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

EDUCATION

Howard University School of Law – Juris Doctor, cum laude, 1972 Managing Editor, Howard Law Journal.

Howard University - Bachelor of Science, Psychology, 1969
BAR MEMBERSHIPS

District of Columbia Court of Appeals
United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit United States District Court for the District of Columbia
United States Court of Military Appeals

OTHER MEMBERSHIPS

D.C. Bar, Board of Governors (1990-1997)
National Bar Association
National Conference of Black Lawyers
Board on Professional Responsibility, Hearing Panel IX (1993-1996) D.C. Commission on Judicial Disabilities and Tenure (1993-1996) National Institute of Municipal Law Officers

National Association of Attorneys General
Board of Directors Unity Healthcare
Adjunct Faculty member Howard University Law School -Municipal Law D.C Sentencing Commission
Legal Advisory Committee to D.C. Statehood Commission
Commission to Commemorate and Recognize Charles Hamilton Houston Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.