[December 10, 1891] Educator Walter Cocking was born in Manchester,
Iowa. Graduating from Columbia University, Cocking began an impressive
career in education, becoming a pioneer in the idea of individualized instruction
and specialized curricula, classrooms, and language laboratories. In 1937,
he was recruited as dean of the University of Georgia's College of Education.
Soon after arriving the University System of Georgia Board of Regents directed
Cocking to embark on a study of state-supported higher education for blacks
in the state. One of his conclusions was that a vast disparity existed
between postsecondary education for blacks and whites in Georgia. Finding
such as this did not endear Cocking to some white educators and politicians.
Compounding the situation, some University of Georgia faculty and staff
felt Cocking had an abrasive personality. Complaints that Cocking was advocating
social equality of the races reached the ear of Governor Eugene Talmadge,
who had Cocking fired, supposedly because he advocated the integration
of public schools. Cocking had advocated improvement in black schools,
while pointing out their obvious inadequacies, but had not publicly advocated
integration. Cocking appealed his dismissal and presented compelling evidence
to the Board of Regents that he was innocent of the charges. But allies
of Gov. Talmadge (who appointed members of the board and himself was an
ex officio member) controlled the Board of Regents and the decision stood.
Such political interference led the Southeastern Association of Colleges
and Secondary Schools to strip the accreditation of ten white state colleges
in Georgia. After this episode Cocking left Georgia and went on to continue
a distinguished career in the field of education. The Cocking Affair
led state attorney general Ellis Arnall to successfully defeat Talmadge
in the next election for governor. Cocking was subsequently invited to
return to the University of Georgia, but he declined. He died at his home
in Mamaroneck, New York on January 14, 1964.