Attorney Wilhelmina Matilda Reuben-Cooke was born on Dec. 13, 1946, in Georgetown, the eldest of six children of the late Rev. Dr. Odell R. Reuben and Dr. Anna Mays Daniels Reuben. She was named in honor of her parents' mothers. On June 22, 1968, Wilhelmina Matilda Reuben married Air Force 1st Lt. Edmund Douglas Cooke Jr. of Springfield, Ohio, and their union bore two daughters.
A descendant of a long line of missionaries and educators, Reuben-Cooke always placed a premium on spiritual foundation, family life, community service and promoting educational opportunities. She and her husband were founding members of and remained leaders in the Covenant Christian Community in Washington, D.C. Wilhelmina's extended family looked to her wise, gentle leadership and her model of grace, generosity and achievement in the pursuit of Christian service.
Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke attended public schools in Sumter and graduated from Mather School (HS 1963), a Christian boarding school in Beaufort. She served the Mather School National Alumni Association in varied leadership positions, including president of the MSNAA's Washington D.C. Chapter.
She was a full professor at the University of the District of Columbia's (UDC) David A. Clarke School of Law, after serving as UDC's provost and vice president for academic affairs. Previously, she was professor and associate dean for academic affairs at Syracuse University's College of Law. Earlier, as associate director of Georgetown University Law Center's Institute for Public
Representation, Reuben-Cooke engaged in and supervised litigation before the Federal Communications Commission and federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.
One of the first five African-American undergraduate students at Duke University, Wilhelmina was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and named a Woodrow Wilson Scholar. Her election as Duke's May Queen was noted in The New York Times. She was active in the civil rights movement, including protesting in Durham and Chapel Hill and signing an open letter against the memberships of key Duke administrators and faculty members at the then all-white Hope Valley Country Club. After graduation from the University of Michigan Law School (1973), she was an associate attorney at Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering, working in communications, antitrust, tax, securities, criminal and general corporate law.
In 2011, Reuben-Cooke earned the 2011 Duke University Distinguished Alumni Award, the highest honor granted by the Duke Alumni Association, for her exemplary service, including two terms on the Duke University Board of Trustees. In 2013, a $1 million scholarship fund was established to honor Wilhelmina and the four other first black undergraduates at Duke. Reuben-Cooke attained numerous other honors, including the Sojourner Truth Award from the Syracuse University chapter of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women's Clubs, the C. Eric Lincoln Distinguished Alumni Award from Duke's Black Alumni Council and the Black Citizens for a Fair Media Annual Award for Public Interest Advocacy. Reuben-Cooke served on numerous community, civic and professional boards, including The Duke Endowment. She was a member of the Links Inc. and an Alpha Kappa Alpha Legacy.
Wilhelmina Matilda Reuben-Cooke made her transition to glory on Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019, at INOVA Hospital in Alexandria, Virginia.
She is survived by Attorney Edmund D. Cooke Jr., her devoted husband of more than 51 years; her adoring daughters, Wilhelmina Nilaja Cooke and Shani Malika Cooke; her loving siblings, Dr. Lucy J. Reuben (Dr. John A. Cole), Anna Marie Reuben, Odell R. (Earnestine) Reuben Jr., Dr. Jayne S. Reuben and Janice S. Reuben; sister/cousin, Barbara (Thomas) Sims; as well as six nephews, Kwame Odell Oliver, Jair YA Cole, John Akayomi Cole, Odell R Reuben III, Xavier Reuben and James Reuben; one niece, LaRisha D. Porter; 10 grandnieces and nephews; and numerous cousins. Wilhelmina embraced Attorney Angela Dougan Sherrer as her third daughter and Phillip J. Sherrer and Marcus P. Sherrer as grandsons.
She was predeceased by Edmund D. Cooke Sr. and Cassie Cooke, parents-in-law; and by Judith Cooke, sister-in-law.
A memorial service for the community/public is being planned.
Private family services were held on Sunday at the Covenant Christian Community, Seekers Church, in Washington, D.C.
Courtesy announcement of Job's Mortuary Inc.
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