Robin Cook

On this date in 1946, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook (né Robert Finlayson Cook) was born in Bellshill, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom. Cook attended Aberdeen Grammar School, where he was nicknamed Robin, and graduated with an honors degree in English literature at Edinburgh University, where he was the features editor of the newspaper Student. After chairing the Scottish Association of Labour Students in the 1966-67 academic year, Cook became a lecturer with the Workers' Educational Association in Edinburgh. He served as secretary of the Edinburgh City Labour party in the early 1970s, and was elected to the Edinburgh Corporation at age 26, one of Scotland's youngest councillors. Since 1986, Cook held prominent posts in the Labour Party, including spokesman on economic affairs, shadow health secretary, Tony Blair's foreign affairs spokesman (in 1994), and Foreign Affairs Secretary in 1997, when Labour came to power. Cook quit his post in Blair's cabinet in 2003 because he had, according to BBC News, become "increasingly angry" about his failure to convince the prime minister to avoid war against Iraq. Cook died at the age of 59, after taking ill while walking in the Highlands of Scotland. At Cook's funeral service, Gordon Brown called him "the greatest parliamentarian of our time." Right Reverend Richard Holloway, who led the funeral service, "told mourners that as an avowed atheist Mr. Cook would have raised a 'quizzical eyebrow' at the service being held in St Giles Cathedral. But he said it was an 'entirely appropriate' venue because . . . Mr. Cook was a 'Presbyterian atheist' " (BBC News, "Mourners' funeral tribute to Cook," Aug. 12, 2005). D. 2005.

"Mr. Cook had been an avowed atheist, who would, in the normal course of events, have steered well clear of organised religion."

—Magnus Linklater, noting the irony of Robin Cook's funeral in a Christian church, "Labour Party at prayer salutes Cook the atheist," The Times (UK), Aug. 13, 2005

Compiled by Bonnie Gutsch; Photo by David Fowler /

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