Cook looks up from a desk in a small office. The desk is covered with papers and books, and he holds a pen over a document his is writing on.
Centennial Spotlights

Samuel DuBois Cook

Samuel DuBois Cook offered sage advice that still resonates: “Have a vision of excellence, dream of success and work like hell.”

Cook lived by that axiom. When he joined Duke’s political science department in 1966, Cook became the first African American to hold a regular faculty appointment at a predominantly white university in the South.

He went on to become president of Dillard University in 1975, a position he held for 22 years, before retiring in 1997. He is credited with launching the modernization of the historically Black college in New Orleans.

A widely acclaimed scholar and leader in higher education, he also had a distinguished career as a political scientist, author and human rights activist.

Cook’s preeminence in the cause of human rights was deployed by two U.S. presidents. Jimmy Carter appointed him to the National Council on the Humanities, and Bill Clinton called on him to serve on the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. He also served as the first Black president of the Southern Political Science Association.

Cook was born Nov. 21, 1928 in Griffin, Georgia and attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, where he was mentored by Dr. Benjamin Mays, the legendary president of the historically Black college.

A Korean War veteran and ordained deacon, Cook earned his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from The Ohio State University.

In 1993, the same year Dr. Cook was elected as a trustee emeritus at Duke, Dillard University officials named the school’s new fine arts and communication center after him. Duke established the Samuel DuBois Cook Society in 1997. In 2006, the university created a postdoctoral fellowship in his name to support scholars who study issues of race, ethnicity, and gender. In 2015, Duke dedicated the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity in his honor.