SACRAMENTO – In July, his beloved Shiloh Baptist Church was recognized by the National Register of Historic Places as a a cultural resource worth preserving.
Those who heard him preach or benefitted from his spiritual guidance, would say its pioneering pastor emeritus, the Rev. Willie P. Cooke, was also “a notable treasure.”
Rev. Willie P. Cooke passed away Sept. 23, after a long illness. Pastor Cooke led Shiloh Baptist Church from 1957 to 1983.
When the church faced leadership challenges, he returned to Shiloh and served as Interim Pastor from 1990 to 1991.
In his time at the church’s helm, Rev. Cooke doubled its membership and sponsored the building of Shiloh Arms, Inc., which provides quality housing and childcare for members of the community.
A native of Mississippi, the young Rev. Cooke studied electrical engineering at the American School of Electricity of Chicago.
After moving to Oregon, he became the first African American to hold an electrical contractor’s license in the state of Oregon.
Upon moving to California, he became an Armature Winder for Weismer and Becker Electric Company.
He became affiliated with Shiloh Baptist Church in 1952, while the Rev. Joseph Williams was pastor.
It was during this time that he had his calling and began his study for the ministry. His calling ultimately led to his leadership of Shiloh Baptist Church. He became the church’s pastor in 1957.
The aspiring Rev. Cooke attended the Conroe Normal and Industrial College of Texas, earning a bachelor’s degree in Theology. He later attended the Andrew Baptist College and Seminary and was later conferred an honorary doctor of divinity degree.
Pastor Cooke was active in several civic endeavors, including serving on Gov. Edmund Brown’s Conference on Delinquency Prevention, the NAACP and the advisory committee for the UC Davis Medical Center.
The Sacramento OBSERVER honored Rev. Cooke as one of its community legends in 2003.
Many local ministers counted Rev. Cooke as their “father in Gospel,” including the founders of Antioch Progressive Baptist Church and Bishop Parnell Lovelace of Center of Praise Ministries.
Many loving memories are left to be cherished by his loving and devoted wife of 43 years, Alveda Davis Cooke; their three sons, Amos Cooke, Kenneth Cooke, and David Cooke; three grandchildren, Myshawn Cooke, Aletta Cooke and Sean Cooke; one great grandchild, Virgil McClendon; many loving nieces and nephews and other precious family members and dear friends.
Rev. Cooke was remembered Tuesday by scores of spiritual leaders and hundreds of supporters at his Celebration of LIfe services held at Shiloh Baptist Church. Shiloh’s pastor, Rev. Anthony Sadler, officiated the services with Bishop Parnell M. Lovelace, Jr.
Noted professor Dr. Cornel West, a product of Shiloh Baptist Church, also attended the services and presented a special tribute to his beloved pastor.
By Genoa Barrow
OBSERVER Sr. Staff Writer