Charlie Cooke lived an extraordinary life – Annapolis graduate, military analyst in Vietnam, Pentagon and White House official, target of Richard Nixon’s venom – and, finally, father of Sonoma County’s landmark efforts to protect open space and farm land.
Cooke died Sunday at his Sonoma Valley ranch. He was 77. Chris Smith wrote the obit (which includes my comments). You can read it by clicking here.
I liked talking to Charlie. He never hesitated to say what was on his mind, and he told great stories about his time in Washington. After all, how many people can say that they showed up in Nixon’s White House tapes?
When Nixon suspected Cooke of leaking the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times, the president told top aides, including National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, “This Cooke. . . I want him killed. . . Why does Elliot (Assistant Secretary of State Elliot Richardson) sit there and defend the son of a bitch?”
It turned out the secret memoranda were leaked by Daniel Ellsberg, not Cooke. Richardson would go on to be the Republican attorney general who Nixon fired after Richardson refused to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox.
In November, Cooke dedicated his own Sonoma Valley ranch to permanent protection from development – a gift said to be worth more than $4 million.
When you think about a beautiful place forever protected from development, you can remember Charlie. He leaves a wonderful legacy.