Jacob Ernest Cooke II

Published 11:14 am Friday, April 15, 2011

HANOVER, NH – Jacob Ernest Cooke II, John Henry MacCraken Professor of History Emerrti at Lafayette College, died March 6, 2011 in Hanover, NH at the age of 86 after a college-teaching career spanning almost 40 years.

Born in Aulander, NC, Cooke was the son of Jacob Ernest and Myrtle Bazemore Cooke. He attended UNC-Chapel Hill. His undergraduate education was interrupted by the outbreak of World War II during which he served in the USAF from 1941-1945. He was stationed in the U.S., India, & Burma as a clerk. At war’s end he resumed his education at UNC where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and graduated with an AB in 1947.

One of the nation’s foremost historians, Cooke has written and edited many books and articles on U.S. history. He earned a Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1955 and his dissertation was published as Frederick Bancroft: Historian in 1956. He joined the faculty at Columbia and was one of the editors of the first 15 volumes of the Papers of Alexander Hamilton. Also while at Columbia he edited the definitive edition of The Federalist which has been repeatedly reprinted over the past three decades.

After a brief appointment as Professor and head of the history department at Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Melon University), Cooke joined the Lafayette College faculty in 1962 as the John Henry MacCraken Professor of History.

He served as head of Lafayette’s department of history from 1983-1986. He received the Thomas Roy and Lura Forest Jones Award for Superior Teaching and Scholarly Contributions in 1965 and 1976. In 1988, he became the inaugural recipient of Lafayette’s Mary Louise Van Artsdalen Prize for Outstanding scholarly achievement.

While at Lafayette he edited The Reports of Alexander Hamilton (1964) and wrote The Age of Responsibility (1965) and The Kennedy Years (1966) both in J.T. Adams, March of Democracy. He edited Alexander Hamilton: a Profile in 1967 (a History Book Club selection) and co-edited A History of the American Colonies (13 vols.1973-1976). He authored Tench Coxe and the Early American Republic (1978) and Alexander Hamilton: a Biography which was nominated for a National Book Award in 1982 and was also a selection of the History Book Club.

He received awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Andrew W. Melon Foundation and has been a Fellow at the National Humanities Center, the Rockefeller Foundation’s Study and Conference Center in Belagio, Italy, and the Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif.

Upon retiring from Lafayette in 1990 after 27 years, Cooke went on to co-edit the Encyclopedia of the North American Colonies (1993) and North America in Colonial Times (1998).

Among other professional organizations, he was a member of the Society of American Historians, limited to historians who have made distinguished contributions to the writing of American History.

He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Jean Auguste Gordon Cooke; son, Jacob E. Cooke III; daughter-in-law, Dr. Elizabeth Peterson Cooke; and two grandchildren, James August Cooke and Johannah Grace Cooke, all of Lyme, NH. He is also survived by two sisters, Ruth M. Cooke (Louisburg, NC) and Florence Eddy (Trenton, NC), and a first cousin, Mary T. Cooke Wiliford (Aulander, NC). A graveside service will be held by Rev Marjorie Holm (All Saints’ Episcopal Church) on Wednesday, April 20, 2011 at 11:00 AM at the Aulander Cemetery in Aulander, NC.

Arrangements are being handled my Massey Funeral Home in Aulander, NC.

Online condolences may be sent to the family at