Apple CEO Tim Cook has a conflicted relationship with his roots. Cook is a Southerner, raised in Robertsdale, Ala., and an Auburn graduate.
Despite being the head of the world's most valuable company, his hometown doesn't seem enthusiastic about recognizing him. The Washington Post investigated and found a town with few fond memories of the man.
[Cook's] name is not noted on the town’s welcome signs along the main drag, Route 59. There’s nothing in the local chamber’s brochures, and the local paper rarely has anything about him. His old high school keeps a glass case celebrating former NFL running back Joe Childress, Class of 1952, but not the leader of the world’s most valuable company, Class of 1978. [...]
Cook never sought out attention and many here are quietly proud of him, but Ousley suspects the lack of recognition is also tied to Cook’s prominent positions on sensitive social issues. Cook, who is gay, has advocated for gay rights. He once criticized Alabama for its lack of progress in a speech at the state capitol in Montgomery. He also helped fund a gay rights initiative in the Deep South.
“That was offensive to a lot of people down here,” Ousley said. One local pastor even vowed to stop using his iPad because of the Apple leader’s views.
Cook, 55, has drawn Apple into a heated battle with the FBI over the encrypted iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters. The FBI has demanded Apple help them unlock the phone. Apple has refused, calling it a danger to encryption and too strong a precedent.
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According to the Post profile, Cook's upbringing in a "tiny town midway between Mobile and Pensacola" helped develop his sense of right and wrong, which helped dictate the current encryption battle. The whole profile is worth reading for anyone curious about how a Southern boy from the middle of Alabama ended up at the head of the world's most valuable company and opposite the FBI.