Former ACLU Louisiana Exec. Director Joe Cook passes away

Joe Cook in 2002

NEW ORLEANS — He was the head of the American Civil Liberties Union in Louisiana for more than 13 years.  Now, the group and others are remembering the life of Joe Cook.

The current ACLU executive director in the state, Channing Ansley Grate, released the following statement this afternoon regarding Cook’s death.

“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Joe Cook, a tenacious defender of civil liberties whose commitment and compassion made a lasting impact on this organization and our entire state. Joe’s tireless dedication to the civil rights of every Louisianan resulted in significant and far-reaching victories – from combating racial discrimination and unconstitutional religious indoctrination to defending the rights of Orleans Parish Prison inmates abandoned and abused after Katrina and the flood. On behalf of the entire ACLU of Louisiana family, we are forever grateful for his contributions and send our most heartfelt condolences to his wife Anna and loved ones.”

Cook joined the ACLU in 1971.  He retired in June of 2007.

During his decades on the job, Cook took aim at everyone from police to school districts.  When investigators wanted to take saliva samples from 600 men to find a killer in 2002, Cook called it a witch hunt.  He also took issue with the idea of cities posting cameras in public to help fight crime, calling it an invasion of privacy.  And Cook called-out multiple sheriff’s and other top cops in the area for a variety of profiling and other concerns.

People who worked with him say Cook was dedicated to the protection of those in need of help.

“He was uncompromising,” said Marjorie Esman who followed Cook as ACLU exec. director in the state.  “He wasn’t going to mince words.”

Friends say Cook had been battling a series of health issues.  He was 73 years old.