San Francisco County








COOK, CARROLL, Attorney. Ex-Judge of the Superior Court, San Francisco, California, was born in that city January 15, 1855, the son of Elisha Cook, and Williametta (Hoff) Cook of New York City. His paternal ancestors were Hollanders, and the maternal English and German.

      He comes of a family of lawyers, his father having been one of the celebrated practitioners in New York State and California, while the latter’s two brothers, Eli and Josiah Cook, attained distinction as the leaders of the bar of Buffalo, New York. Following in the footsteps of their father and uncles, Judge Cook and his brother, William Hoff Cook, have long been among the honored members of the bar of San Francisco.

      Judge Cook has been twice married, his first wife being Lena Stow, daughter of the Hon. W. Stow of San Francisco, and of that union there were born two daughters, Elsie and Houston Cook. Mrs. Cook died in March,1899, and on April 10, 1901, he married a second time, his wife being Bessie Grim, daughter of A. K. Grim of Alameda County, California.

      Judge Cook received his first mental training in the well-known private school of George Bates in San Francisco. In 1870, when he was fifteen years of age, he left the Boys’ High School to enter the St. Augustine Academy at Benicia, but was obliged by the death of his father to leave six months before graduation.

      For two years he was occupied as a clerk, and then went to Union College, Schenectady, New York, for a year, at the end of which period he moved to Buffalo, where he began the practical study of law in the office of his uncle, Josiah Cook, at that time one of the noted attorneys of New York State. Returning to California, he continued his studies under the observant eyes of Judge Delos Lake, and in 1874 was admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court of California.

      The following year he began active practice, which he continued with encouraging success until 1884, when he was appointed First Assistant United States Attorney for the term of four years. This post he resigned in 1888 and resumed his private practice until 1896, in which year he was elected Judge of the Superior Court of California. At the end of his first term of six years he was re-elected for six years more, and on the expiration of this second term—January 1, 1909, he again became a private in the legal ranks, and has been fighting hard therein ever since.

      Judge Cook’s official career, as well as his practice, has been lime-lighted by cases whose dramatic and legal interest have attracted national if not worldwide, attention. In the famous trial of Cordelia Botkin he rendered the first decision for a crime committed in two States, a ruling which the United States Supreme Court upheld. Mrs. Botkin was tried and convicted of sending poisoned candy to Mrs. John Dunning and her sister, of Wilmington, Delaware, the two women dying as the result of eating the drugged sweets. The case was one of the most noted in the criminal annals of the country and extended over a long period of time. But at the conclusion of all the litigation the woman was finally sentenced to serve out her life as a prisoner. She was confined in the San Francisco County Jail until the earthquake of 1906, at which time she was transferred to San Quentin Penitentiary, where she died,

      In the case of the “Gas Pipe Thugs” one culprit pleaded guilty, and Judge Cook sentenced him to the gallows without a jury trial. Again the Appellate Court affirmed him. He also sentenced to death the “criminal of the century,” Theodore Durrant, in the notorious belfry murder trial. Durrant was convicted in November 1895, of killing two young women, and his trial was one of the most celebrated in the history of the country. He fought desperately, but finally was hanged in 1898 after three years of litigation.

      In the famous case of John McNulty, who had received the death penalty from the Superior Court, and for whom the gallows had been erected eight different times, Judge Cook acting as his counsel, stayed the execution and finally carried the case to the Supreme Court of the United States where he saved his client’s neck by securing him a term of six years in the Penitentiary.

      It has been often presumed that the judicial mind is of a fiber different from that of the barrister, that the qualities, which make for success on the bench, are opposed to those required at the bar. To this rule, however, if it be one, the career of Carroll Cook is a shining exception. His record as Judge and advocate has made an indelible impression on the legal history of California.

      Endowed with unusual analytical ability, and being a clear thinker, Judge Cook was enabled to solve rapidly and sharply the problems which presented themselves to him in his service as a jurist.

      Since his retirement from the bench Judge Cook’s practice has been confined largely to the defense of the accused. With his rapidly expanding clientele, and his duties as chief counsel of the Chinese Six Companies and other large corporations, Judge Cook has been one of the most active attorneys in practice at the Bar of California.

      He finds relaxation in the management of his beautiful ranch of 1700 acres, in Sonoma County, where he raises blooded hogs and cattle—“blue ribbon winners” at the live stock shows.

      Judge Cook is a member of the Union League Club of San Francisco and is a prominent figure in fraternal circles, being member of the Scottish Rite Masons, Knights Templar, Order of Eastern Star, Fraternal Order of Eagles and the Druids.




Transcribed by Gloria (Wiegner) Lane.

Source: Press Reference Library, Western Edition Notables of the West, Vol. I, Page 691, International News Service, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, Atlanta.  1913.

© 2007 Gloria Lane.


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