If you look up Bobby Lee Cook on Google, you’ll get more than 13 million results. One of those results is a YouTube video in which Cook is dubbed “The Master of Reasonable Doubt.”
Attorneys from all over North Georgia sat spellbound as Cook relived highlights of his 66-year career on Friday during the Georgia Legal Services conference in Rome.
Cook recalled the early years of his career when he would walk into a courthouse and see two water fountains, one for blacks and the other for whites.
He recalled African-Americans being required to sit in the balcony of old courtrooms.
“It was a most unusual, extraordinary time,” Cook said. It was a time when no women sat on juries, and certainly no blacks.
Cook said that in those days a lawyer was typically appointed to a case one day and expected to go to trial the next.
Cook referred to a comment made by British Lord John Erskine as having a profound impact on his legal philosophy.
Erskine suggested that if a lawyer were to abstain or run from a cause simply because the cause was unpopular then “liberties were at an end.”
Cook recalled the introduction of federal legislation in the mid 1970s that would have made it legal for authorities to arrest someone who “might have” committed a crime.
Cook said he testified against the legislation before a U.S. Senate Committee where North Carolina Senator Sam Ervin said if you lock everybody up that you think might commit a crime, “that you might be safer but you won’t be free.”
The Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education was the most important legal decision from the U.S. Supreme Court in his lifetime, Cook said.
The court determined that segregated education facilities were inherently unequal.
Rome attorney Bob Finnell, who moderated the discussion with Cook, listed three awards Cook had received over his long career.
He was the first recipient of the Traditional Excellence Awards given by the State Bar of Georgia, the Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and the Small Town Lawyer Made Good Award by the State Bar of Washington.
Cook said he was pleased to have won the Small Town Lawyer Made Good Award in 1989, a year after the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia received that same honor.
Cook regaled the attorneys with numerous stories, including a murder trial in Scottsboro, Alabama, where Cook’s driver took members of the jury for a ride in his Rolls Royce during a lunch break one day.
His client was acquitted and those jurors came up to Cook after the verdict was read and complemented him on the car and his driver.
The Summerville attorney wrapped up his presentation by saying lawyers are a great group of people to eat with, to fight with and to drink with, drawing a huge burst of laughter from his fellow attorneys.
At the conclusion of the discussion, Davis Goodyear, with West Publishing Company, revealed the company was publishing a multi-volume set of copies of 372 of Cook’s published cases and orders.
“It’s going to be called, The Cases of Bobby Lee Cook,” Goodyear said.
“Not only do you win, but you make your cases very interesting with your strategy and your arguments. It’s very compelling.”