Tributes Paid to Baylor Graduate and Ex-EPA Official

Sept. 22, 2006

His numerous friends and colleagues in the Dallas area and at Baylor University were this week mourning the death of popular Baylor graduate and former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official Gregg Alan Cooke, who died Sept. 17 following an apparent heart attack after exercising at the downtown Dallas YMCA. He was 51.

An obituary in the Dallas Morning News stated that he became nonresponsive shortly after entering the whirlpool in the men's locker room. "YMCA staff and members responded with CPR and an automated external defibrillator. He was pronounced dead after being transported to Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas."

Mr. Cooke received a bachelor's degree from Baylor in 1977 and in 1982 he graduated from Baylor Law School. He also received a master of foreign affairs degree from the University of Virginia in 1979.

Baylor Law Dean Brad Toben said, "Gregg practiced his professional craft with an absolute passion, just as he lived his life. He came to be an unmatched advocate for the environment, and especially for our air quality, because he fully invested his formidable intellect, work ethic and people skills into all that he did. He was an exemplar of the lawyer as public servant and the lawyer as a change agent for the betterment of all. We all have been blessed by his life and his work, which will continue to inure to the public good."

The Dallas Morning News said Mr. Cooke had built a national reputation as an EPA administrator for brokering sometimes-controversial compromises to improve air and water quality in Texas. "For the last eight years, Gregg Cooke had drawn praise for his tireless and innovative efforts to give Texans a healthier place to live, first as the regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency and most recently as an attorney and consultant."

The Abilene native served on the executive staff for Texas Gov. Mark White before beginning his law practice in Dallas with the law firm of Geary, Stahl and Spencer, where he became a partner. He then served with Texas Attorney General Dan Morales' office, where he was chief of the natural resources protection and energy division and was the state's North American Free Trade Agreement environmental liaison. He also served as the Texas general counsel for the Border Environmental Corporation Commission in Juárez, before becoming a partner with the firm of Haynes & Boone in Austin.

Appointed in 1998 by President Bill Clinton to head the EPA in Dallas, Mr. Cooke served as regional administrator until January 2003. The Dallas Morning News stated that at the time of death, Mr. Cooke was a consultant to Collin, Dallas, Tarrant and Denton counties on regional smog planning. He was also counsel for the environmental law firm of Guida, Slavich & Flores in Dallas.

The newspaper quoted the EPA's current regional administrator in Dallas, Richard E. Greene. "Gregg was extraordinarily effective in bringing people together to discuss ways to improve air quality in North Texas," he said, pointing out that Mr. Cooke brought real-world, workable solutions to our clean air problems. "He was a great steward of the environment, and he will be missed," Mr. Greene said.

The Dallas Morning News obituary also quoted Dallas Mayor Laura Miller. "There are very few people in all of North Texas who know as much about air quality as Greg Cooke," she said. "He's been an extremely important voice. I don't know who can fill his shoes."

Mr. Cooke was a member of First United Methodist Church in Dallas, where he sang in the choir.

Mr. Cooke is survived by his wife, Melanie Cooke of Dallas; his daughter, Clara; his parents, June and Horace Cooke of Abilene; and two brothers, David Cooke of Boston and Raymond "Rusty" Cooke of El Paso.

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