Eldridge Cook: A Catalyst for Character
Eldridge Cook is a delightful example of overcoming the odds. The grandson of former slaves, he grew up in the segregated South. At the age of 9, his mother died and he moved to Gloucester to be raised by his grandparents. Despite a perceived lack of opportunity for minority youth, Eldridge was greatly influenced by his grandfather and Thomas Walker, the first African American attorney in the county. They taught him that with hard work and dedication, his dreams were possible.
Out of high school, Eldridge purchased the first freight truck in Gloucester County and began transporting fresh seafood from local markets. He gradually expanded his fleet and added routes across the country. During World War II, he also used the trucks to haul lumber for wartime use. In 1950, he started Cook’s Seafood Company – a leading seafood supplier in Hampton Roads. After six decades, he shut down operations at the age of 95.
The Virginia Assembly commended Eldridge in a joint resolution: “Eldridge Cook, throughout his life, has made many contributions not only to Virginia’s seafood industry, but also to his community and his church, serving as an inspiration to every Virginian, irrespective of race or color.”
Cook’s story models the way for Gloucester youth, inspiring them to achieve their own dreams just as he did. Through a fund at GCF, he wanted to give a “hand up” to young people at risk of falling through the cracks. Cook passed away in 2014, but his legacy continues. Grants are awarded each year to help local youth build character and a brighter future through education and enrichment.
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