Richard Hyatt: A shepherd who looked after his flock

May 3, 2014 

Country Boy was a bumpkin with a nasal twang and fractured syntax that on the radio acted like a roguish hillbilly. The Rev. Jimmy Cook was a shepherd who constantly cared for his flock and a pastor whose baritone voice made it sound like God himself was delivering the Sunday morning scriptures.

Together they were Brother Jimmy, an unpretentious small town celebrity in the days of AM radio that answered the call to preach and never turned down the volume.

The Rev. James R. Cook died Friday, 60 years after putting aside his radio persona and seven months after preaching his final sermon as a Baptist minister. He was 92.

Before TV, radio personalities were larger than life and on WGBA it was Country Boy. Cook arrived in 1946 to set up a station whose call letters stood for Where Georgia Borders Alabama. He bought the equipment and arranged the programming.

To add zest to his own show, the college-educated son of a doctor took on the personality of a hayseed who concocted verbal gems like "prezactly" and "lecertic." He did live matinees from the Springer Theater and did his own commercials.

But the call to preach was stronger and he left broadcasting in 1954 to become the pastor at Morningside Baptist Church. He

seldom talked about radio, and his son learned details of his broadcasting career from others.

"He turned a leaf and didn't look back," Robert Cook says.

He stayed at Morningside 41 years, guiding major building programs and presiding at 645 weddings, 488 funerals and 1,078 baptisms.

He left there in 1993, but retirement never stopped him. Time did, and his son quietly assumed his father -- a man without a hobby -- wouldn't survive very long after he quit preaching.

And he didn't.

A few years ago he returned to the church he helped birth to preach the funeral of an old friend. In the middle of his eulogy he paused and said that would be his last funeral, and that he hoped the next one he attended would be his own.

His memorial is Monday at 3 p.m. at Morningside Baptist, and people will surely share a lot of memories. But his son said Brother Jimmy would want folks to remember him as a humble man who followed God and a shepherd who looked after his flock.

And so we will.

-- Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at hyatt31906@knology.net.

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