News and Music Discovery
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Marlow Cook, Moderate Kentucky Republican Leader, Dies

US Congress

Former U.S. Sen. Marlow Cook of Kentucky, a moderate Republican and one of the first GOP senators to call for the resignation of Richard Nixon, has died at age 89.

Cook was part of a Republican resurgence in the 1960s, returning the GOP to the Jefferson County judge-executive office in 1961 and winning a Senate seat in 1968. He also influenced future Kentucky leaders; Democratic U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth interned for Cook in Jefferson County and served as an aide in his Senate office.

“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,” Yarmuth said.

Yarmuth later switched his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat.

Another of Cook’s notable hires was Mitch McConnell, who chaired Cook’s youth campaign in Kentucky when he ran for U.S. Senate in 1968 and then worked as Cook’s aide until 1970. McConnell would follow Cook’s steps, serving as judge-executive and then in the Senate, where is the majority leader.

McConnell has emerged as a national leader in the increasingly conservative Congress, but Cook late in life criticized the rightward trajectory of the party.

In 2014, he rebuked McConnell’s forceful push against the Affordable Care Act.

“If he had any knowledge of the lack of health and medical facilities in the hills of Kentucky. he’d know it’s a problem we need to solve,” Cook told Mother Jones.

“For Mitch McConnell to decide the new health program is not good for Kentucky — it tells me he’s not looking out for his own constituency.”

Cook refused to vote for Republican President George W. Bush in his 2004 race, casting a ballot for Democrat John Kerry instead.

“I have been, and will continue to be a Republican. But when we as a party send the wrong person to the White House, then it is our responsibility to send him home if our nation suffers as a result of his actions,” Marlow said in a Courier-Journal op-ed.

Cook served in the state House from 1957 until 1961. He was then elected as Jefferson County judge-executive, and is known for purchasing the decrepit steamboat which became the Belle of Louisville.

“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,” Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said in a statement.

“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.”

Cook lost his Senate re-election bid to Democrat Wendell Ford in the 1974.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives for Kentucky Public Radio, a group of public radio stations including WKMS, WFPL in Louisville, WEKU in Richmond and WKYU in Bowling Green. A native of Lexington, Ryland most recently served as the Capitol Reporter for Kentucky Public Radio. He has covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin.
Related Content