Robert Schoenhof Weil
The following biographical sketch was compiled at the time of induction into the Academy in 2012.
Ralph D. Cook is an attorney with the Birmingham law firm of Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton, LLP, having joined the firm in February 2001.
Cook, the second of three children of Joe and Nannie Cook, was born in Birmingham. His father owned and operated Cook’s Cleaners in Bessemer for over 67 years, and his mother was a Jefferson County teacher and principal for over 43 years. Educated in the public schools of Jefferson County, Cook earned a B.S. degree at Tennessee State University, Nashville, Tennessee, and a Juris Doctor degree from Howard University School of Law, Washington, D.C. Cook served as dean and law professor at Miles Law School for 24 years, from 1975 through 1999. He taught at San Jose State University and Cabrillo College in California and at Miles College in Birmingham. He also served as an assistant district attorney in Bessemer and engaged in the private practice of law.
Cook served in the Alabama Judiciary for 24 years. He was elected district court judge and served for four and a half years in the Family Court of Jefferson County, Bessemer District. In 1981, he was appointed circuit judge in the Bessemer Division of the Tenth Judicial Court by Governor Fob James and was twice elected. He was appointed associate justice of the Alabama Supreme Court by Governor Jim Folsom, Jr., on November 1, 1993, was elected to that position on November 8, 1994, and served on the Court until January 15, 2001.
Cook is a member of the Bessemer, Birmingham, Alabama State, California State, and National bar associations, and is a fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers. He served as president of the Alabama Lawyers Association and of the Alabama Association of Justice, and is an elected member of the American Law Institute. Cook has received numerous professional awards, among them the prestigious Alabama State Bar Judicial Award of Merit in 1996 and Alabama Appleseed’s Brewer-Torbert Award in 2012. He was honored by the Metro Birmingham Branch of the NAACP in 2011.
An active and engaged civic leader, Cook is a charter member of the West Jefferson Kiwanis Club and served as its president and on its board of directors. He served as lieutenant governor of the Alabama District, Kiwanis International, from 1991 to 1992. He serves or has served on the boards of directors of the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, the Salvation Army, the Alabama Civil Justice Foundation, the Bessemer Chamber of Commerce, the Bessemer YMCA, the Kiwanis Club of Birmingham, St. Vincent’s Foundation, Alabama Power Company, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, and the Birmingham Business Alliance, and he serves as chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Birmingham Art Museum. He is a member of the Monday Morning Quarterback Club. Cook was presented the Heart of an Eagle Award by the Birmingham Council, Boy Scouts of America, in 2010. The award is given to deserving individuals who have demonstrated leadership, character, and integrity in their service to the community, their profession, and their country.
Cook is married to the former Charlsie Davis, and they are the parents of three adult children: Kimberly, Nakela, and Ralph Jr. They are members of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, where Cook has served on the board of trustees.