Born in Greenville, SC, to Wilson Cooke and Margaret Magdelena Walker Cooke, William Wilson Cooke began an apprecticeship as a carpenter in 1885. Hen enrolled in Claflin University in 1888 and undertook a class in architectural drawing taught by Robert Charles Bates. In 1893 he graduated from Claflin with a college preparatory diploma in liberal arts and then returned to Claflin as the assistant to Robert Charles Bates. In 1894 he became superintendent of the Industrial Department at the Georgia State Industrial College for Colored Youth (Savannah, GA). However, in 1897, Cooke returned to Claflin to replace Robert Charles Bates as the superintendent of manual training and industrial arts.
By 1900, although Cooke had already designed a number of buildings for Claflin University, he returned for further training in architecture to the Boston School of Technology, thereafter taking a course in art history at Columbia University. When he returned to Claflin, he took additional courses so that he could graduate with a B.S. in Technology in 1902.
After successfully taking the three-day federal civil service examination administered in Boston in March 1907, Cooke gained employment with the U.S. Treasury Department Supervising Architect's Office as an architectural draftsman. He would remain with the Supervising Architect's Office until 1918, but in 1909 he transferred to Field Operations, where he would supervise the construction of federal courthouses and post offices in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, and West Virginia. From 1918 to 1921 Cooke worked for the War Department as director of vocational guidance and training at Wilberforce University.
In 1921 Cooke entered private practice in Gary, Indiana, and he earned his state architect license in 1929. The crash of the stock market sorely affected Cooke's practice, and in 1931 he became a construction engineer with the Supervising Architect's Office, chiefly designing and overseeing construction of post offices in Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Sandra L. Tatman.
- Columbia University
- Claflin University
- Boston School of Technology
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