WILLCOX Cowboy Hall of Fame inductees

TAY COOK (9) 1894-1985

In the mid 1880's Ben Duncan, Mark and Tay's grandfather, brought his herd of cattle from Texas to Arizona. He settled with his family five miles west of Willcox. This was known as the Ranch. Both Tay and Mark, along with their sister Gladys, were born on this ranch. Tay was born on July 29th, 1894 and Mark December 7, 1895.

As both boys were growing up, James B. Cook, their father, was building up his ranch holdings to include some 250 sections of land owned or controlled by the Cook family. Cook Cattle Company also controlled more than 50 brands. Cook Cattle Company branded - N, which Tay kept after dissolving their partnership, and Mark branded the ( ).

The two boys grew up working on the ranches. Before the Fence Law of 1916, round up would be at least a three-month chore. Ranchers would team together and head for Douglas to start gathering cattle. The cattle would migrate down to that area because of the summer rains. The round-up crew would head north, gathering cattle as they went. As they reached each ranch, they would drop off the cattle belonging to that ranch, and then continue on. Sometimes Mark and Tay would barely make it home for Christmas.

Both Mark and Tay were married in the early 1920's, Tay to Ruth Bonham, and Mark to Marguerite Parker. Mark and Margie lived first at the old Hayes Place and then later moved to the 10 Ranch until 1945. Tay lived at the UX Ranch while Ruth and their son Bill lived above the old Valley National Bank downtown so that Bill could attend school.

They both stayed ranching with their father until 1937, when James B. Cook died. That year, Cook Cattle Company bought the Monk Ranch from the Monk Brothers. Ruth and Tay moved to the Monk Ranch after they bought it. Tay did most of the cattle buying, while Mark ran the ranches. In 1940, Mark and Tay had 2500 head of sheep because cattle prices were too high. The sale of the UX Ranch came in 1940, and the 10 Ranch sold in 1945. Also in 1945, Mark and Tay dissolved their partnership, with Tay keeping the Monk Ranch, and Mark keeping Red Tail.

Their mother, Rebecca Cook, died in 1948. Also in 1948 Tay left his ranch in care of his son Bill when he was elected to the House of Representatives in Phoenix. During his early years in the legislature, his interest centered on welfare reform and livestock laws. He soon became Speaker of the House, and was known as "Mr. Democrat." He was the first person to serve 3 terms as Speaker of the House. Legislation he introduced included Teachers Retirement and Special Education for the Handicapped. The toughest bill he ever passed as Speaker was the one providing retirement benefits for the Highway Patrol. Also while he was Speaker, the Medical School was established at the U of A and the Junior College system was created. Cook ran the house on a man-to-man basis, he told “The Arizona Daily Star" in a 1982 interview. “The Speaker is The Man," he said, noting that he was elected Speaker the first time almost against his will, but had to fight for it each time after that. "I had all the power I wanted, and more, too, by God," Cook said.
Cook ran an unsuccessful campaign for state senator in 1962. He sat out two years, but was elected to the House again in the next election. He tried but failed to get a new county created out of northern Cochise County in the late 1950's and 1960's.

Tragedy struck in 1956 for Tay. He lost his wife to cancer and his son, Bill, was killed by lightning while horseback on the Monk Ranch. His daughter-in-law, Connie, and his two grandchildren, Ann and Tay moved to Phoenix shortly after this happened.

Political retirement came in 1970 concluding 10 terms (20 years) in the House of Representatives. He moved back to Willcox where he lived until his death in 1985.

Mark and Margie built a new home at Red Tail in 1947. 1948 brought them a son, James B. Cook II, soon after Mark's mother passed away. Mark stayed in ranching until 1951 when Red Tail was sold to the Kortsen Brothers. Mark retired to his home on Ft. Grant Road in 1952 where he ran a few head of cattle on permanent pasture.

With the death of Tay's son Bill in 1956, Mark came out of retirement to take care of the Monk Ranch while Tay was in Phoenix. This relationship continued until Tay sold the Monk Ranch in 1964 to Darrel Cluff of Safford.

Mark Cook died in 1988.
Tay Cook died in 1985.