Former Ky. U.S. Senator Marlow Cook dies at 89; McConnell pays t - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Former Ky. U.S. Senator Marlow Cook dies at 89; McConnell pays tribute on Senate floor

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Marlow Cook (Courtesy: U.S. Senate Historical Office) Marlow Cook (Courtesy: U.S. Senate Historical Office)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Former Kentucky U.S. Senator Marlow Cook has died.

He was 89 years old.

Circumstances of his death were not clear late Thursday morning. Cook had lived in the Sarasota, Florida area for many years.

Cook was born in Akron, New York, served in the Navy during World War II and moved to Louisville in 1943, according to the Encyclopedia of Kentucky. Cook received a law degree from the University of Louisville in 1950. He also served as a state representative from Jefferson County and worked as an attorney in Louisville and Washington, D.C.

Cook, a moderate Republican, served in the Senate from late 1968 through late 1974.

He was the first Roman Catholic to win statewide office in Kentucky.

Cook also was the Jefferson County Judge-Executive who engineered the 1963 purchase of what became the Belle of Louisville.

The county paid $34,000 to buy the paddle wheeler in a bankruptcy sale.

The Belle is still a prominent feature on Louisville's waterfront.

Cook received a law degree from the University of Louisville in 1950.  He also served as a state representative from Jefferson County and worked as an attorney in Louisville and Washington, D.C.

Cook hired current U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell as an aide in the late 1960s. However, he criticized McConnell's opposition to the Affordable Care Act in recent years.

McConnell was to pay tribute to Cook on the Senate floor Thursday afternoon. Here's an excerpt of his remarks:

"Senator Cook served in this chamber for only a single term, but his political impact in the Commonwealth of Kentucky was substantial. So was his impact in my life. Marlow Cook gave me my first real opportunity in politics, as state youth chairman for his successful Senate campaign. He gave me an important opportunity in government too, as chief legislative assistant — what we now call legislative director — in his Senate office. I worked there for two years. I recall that time fondly. I remain very grateful for it. Senator Cook was someone who proved that Republican success was possible in a commonwealth dominated by Democrats. That was no easy task when he ran for office, but he succeeded anyway. You might even say he sketched out a political blueprint for victory.”

Congressman John Yarmuth worked as an intern for Cook in the summers of 1965 and 1966 during his time as Jefferson County Judge-Executive, as an aide during his 1968 Senate campaign, and as his Legislative Assistant and Legislative Director in the United States Senate from 1971-1974. Yarmuth released the following statement:

"Marlow Cook may forever be remembered by Louisvillians as the Jefferson County Executive who purchased the Belle of Louisville, but I remember him not only as my first boss, but also as someone who directly and significantly shaped my life and the lives of so many in public life.

When I was a member of his U.S. Senate staff, he taught me the importance of hiring talented staff and relying heavily on them. More importantly, his staff became part of his family, and he treated me as another son until the end of his life. Other ‘alumni’ of his staff included Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, former U.S. Attorney David Huber, and the late U.S. District Judge Ron Meredith.

As a Republican candidate for reelection in 1974, Cook courageously suggested the resignation of Republican President Richard Nixon over the Watergate affair, becoming just the second member of Congress to do so.  He challenged the Nixon administration when he thought it was justified and supported it when he felt it was deserved, but he steadfastly and resolutely defended the interests of Kentucky regardless of partisan considerations.

Senator Cook was someone who always worked across the aisle, and he was great friends with Democrats Joe Biden, Fritz Hollings, and his Kentucky colleague Dee Huddleston, among others, including Wendell Ford, who defeated him in 1974. He was regularly voted one of the nicest members of the Senate by staffers of all offices.

Although he has been gone from Kentucky for a long time, he never lost his enthusiasm for the University of Louisville and its sports teams. He also maintained his interest in politics and public policy as long as he lived.

I will always cherish my relationship with Marlow Cook, and will be forever grateful for his guidance, his friendship, and his love."

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer also released a statement Thursday afternoon:

"Marlow Cook was a statesman who will be remembered for championing causes, like the Equal Rights Amendment, based not on politics, but what he believed was right. As Jefferson County Judge-Executive, as a U.S. Senator representing Kentucky and even in retirement, Cook did what he thought was best for his community and his nation. He leaves many legacies, including an old steamboat he purchased that we now cherish as the Belle of Louisville. Our city mourns Sen. Cook’s passing."

Stay with WDRB News. We'll update this story as it develops.

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