Cooke, Willard Richardson (1888–1966)

By: Patricia L. Jakobi

Type: Biography

Published: December 1, 1994

Willard Richardson Cooke, gynecology professor, was born in Galveston on September 6, 1888, to Dr. Henry P. and Caroline (Richardson) Cooke. He represented the seventh generation of physicians in his family; his father had also practiced in Galveston and served as one of the first deans at the University of Texas Medical Branch (1898–1901). His mother was the daughter of Willard Richardson, an early editor of the Galveston Daily News (see GALVESTON NEWS). Cooke was educated at Miss Jackie Andrews' Private School in Galveston and attended Ball High School and the Episcopal High School of Virginia. He received an undergraduate degree from the University of Texas in 1910 and an M.D. from UTMB in 1912, graduating first in his class. Cooke served an internship at John Sealy Hospital in 1912 and in 1913 began a forty-seven-year affiliation with the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UTMB. In 1922 he advanced to associate professor. In 1924 he was appointed chairman and professor of the department; he maintained the chairmanship until 1954 and his professorship until he retired in 1959. He once estimated that he had delivered more than 5,000 babies and taught some 3,000 physicians during his professional career. He published more than seventy articles and was the author of a widely used textbook, Fundamentals of Gynecology (1935).

Cooke served as president (1942–44) of the American Association of Obstetrics and Gynecology, founding member and president of the Texas Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, founding member and president (1935) of the Central Association of Obstetrics and Gynecology, governor of the American College of Surgeons, vice president of the American Gynecological Society (1955–56), and secretary of the Galveston County Medical Society (1918). He was a director of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology from 1935 to 1955. Cooke also served as an associate editor of both the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Medical Times. In 1947 physicians who had served as residents under Cooke formed the Willard R. Cooke Club. That club, which meets annually, is now open to all former residents of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UTMB.

In 1914 Cooke married Aline Ruth Austin, the daughter of Galveston's first mayor under commission government. She died in 1956. They had three children, one of whom was killed in Germany during World War II. Throughout his life Cooke maintained a strong interest in boat building, boating, and photographing marsh birds and their rookeries. He died in an Austin Hospital on March 16, 1966.

Galveston News, March 17, 1966. Obstetrics and Gynecology, October 1957. Texas State Journal of Medicine, May 1966. The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston: A Seventy-five Year History (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1967).
  • Health and Medicine
  • Education
  • Educators
  • Founders and Pioneers
  • School Founders
  • Physicians and Surgeons
  • Obstetricians and Gynecologists
  • Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
  • Authors and Writers

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Patricia L. Jakobi, “Cooke, Willard Richardson,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 28, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1994

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: