Dictionary of Virginia Biography

Charles Francis Cocke (10 June 1886–3 February 1971), president of the American Bankers Association, was born in Roanoke and was the son of Lucian Howard Cocke, a former mayor of Roanoke and lawyer for the Norfolk and Western Railway Company who served as president of the Virginia State Bar Association in 1918–1919, and his first wife, Lelia Maria Smith Cocke, a portraitist. His paternal grandfather, Charles Lewis Cocke, was a longtime superintendent of Hollins Institute (later Hollins University). After the death of his mother in 1899, Cocke lived in Charlottesville with his maternal grandparents, Francis Henry Smith, a professor of natural philosophy at the University of Virginia, and Mary Stuart Harrison Smith, a writer. Cocke entered the University of Virginia in 1903 and received a B.A. in 1908, followed by two years at the law school. Admitted to the bar in 1910, he left school without graduating and practiced law in Roanoke with a series of partners. Eventually he became senior partner in the firm of Cocke, Hazlegrove, and Shackleford. As a young attorney he helped represent Sidna Allen, one of the men convicted of the shootout at the Carroll County courthouse in 1912, but his practice was mostly civil, not criminal.

On 1 October 1914 C. Francis Cocke, as he was known professionally, married Francis Tilghman Mingea, of Abingdon. They had one daughter. During World War I, Cocke served at several aviation and signal corps stations in the United States. In 1919 he chaired the organizational meeting of the Virginia Department of the American Legion. Cocke became a director of the First National Exchange Bank of Roanoke in 1927 and ten years later became executive vice president. He served as president from January 1938 until 1956, when he was elected chairman of the board. Cocke won recognition for implementing innovations in the tradition-bound banking business, thereby greatly increasing the success and size of his bank. At a time when savings and loan associations advanced most real estate loans, he pushed his bank into the residential mortgage field. Banks had been primarily oriented to serve business customers, but he expanded consumer and installment lending. Taking advantage of his bank's regional prominence, Cocke established correspondent relationships with nearly every bank in southwestern Virginia and secured for his bank a leading position in western Virginia.

An active member of both the Virginia Bankers Association and the American Bankers Association, Cocke was president of the former for the 1948–1949 term. His presidential address, with its warnings against excessive regulation of private banking, placed him squarely in line with most other Virginia business leaders. Cocke chaired the American Bankers Association's Committee on Federal Legislation from 1946 to 1950, when he became the association's vice president. In October 1951 he won election to a one-year term as president. He traveled throughout the United States and in Mexico during his term and spoke out on issues relating to regulation of banking, public and private credit, and federal deficit spending.

Cocke retired in 1964. He published five books during the 1960s, one of them a memoir of his father-in-law and another a history of Saint Mark's Episcopal Church in the town of Fincastle. The other three treated the historic parishes of the Episcopal Church in Virginia and were published by the Virginia State Library (later the Library of Virginia), of which he was a board member from 1944 to 1954, the final year as chair. Cocke supported the development and publication of the library's quarterly illustrated magazine, Virginia Cavalcade. He was a member of Saint John's Episcopal Church in Roanoke and was chancellor of the Episcopal Diocese of Southwestern Virginia from its creation in 1919 to 1961. A trustee of Hollins College from 1929 until his death, Cocke served as chairman of the board from 1938 to 1968.

A member of the boards of the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company of Virginia, the Lawyers Title Insurance Corporation, and the Peoples Federal Savings and Loan Association of Roanoke, Cocke served on numerous other public boards, including those of the Barter Theatre, in Abingdon, the Medical College of Virginia, the Roanoke Historical Society (later the Historical Society of Western Virginia), the Roanoke Memorial Hospital Association, the Roanoke Public Library, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and the VPI Educational Foundation (later the Virginia Tech Educational Foundation). Charles Francis Cocke died at his Roanoke home on 3 February 1971 and was buried in the Cocke family cemetery at Hollins College.

Sources Consulted:
National Cyclopædia of American Biography (1891–1984), 56:260–261 (portrait facing 260); William B. Bagbey, "Cocke Family History" (typescript, ca. 2000), 7–8 (copy in Dictionary of Virginia Biography Files); Birth Register, Roanoke City, Bureau of Vital Statistics (BVS), Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Health, Record Group 36, Library of Virginia (LVA); BVS Marriage Register, Washington Co.; feature articles in Banking 43 (Nov. 1950): 47, and 44 (Oct. 1951): 40–43, 135, 138, in Commonwealth 18 (Nov. 1951): 20–21, and 23 (Aug. 1956): 8, 10, 45, 48, and in Virginia and the Virginia County 6 (Aug. 1952): 6–8, 20–21, 24–26 (several portraits, including cover portrait); presidential address in Virginia Bankers Association Yearbook (1949), 20–27; principal publications include Cocke, Parish Lines, Diocese of Southwestern Virginia (1960), Parish Lines, Diocese of Southern Virginia (1964), Parish Lines, Diocese of Virginia (1967), Recollections of Wilton Egerton Mingea, 1855–1938 (1965), and St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Fincastle, Virginia: Two Centuries of the Church in Botetourt County (1969); obituaries in Richmond News Leader and Roanoke World-News, both 3 Feb. 1971, and Roanoke Times, 4 Feb. 1971.

Written for the Dictionary of Virginia Biography by Gilbert E. Butler Jr.

How to cite this page:
Gilbert E. Butler Jr., "Charles Francis Cocke (1886–1971)," Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Library of Virginia (1998– ), published 2006 ({url}, accessed [today's date]).

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