Tenth Regent (1968-1976)

Elizabeth Throckmorton was born in New York City on August 5, 1897, the daughter of Charles Wickliffe and Charlotte Alvord Throckmorton. She was educated at the Peck School in Morristown, New Jersey, at schools in Europe, and at Columbia University. She moved to Morristown, New Jersey, in 1927 and the following year married attorney Thomas Turner Cooke.

Preservation

Mrs. Cooke stands with original Washington family portraits in the west parlor in 1976. The portraits were on special loan to Mount Vernon from Washington and Lee University. MVLA.

Mrs. Cooke stands with original Washington family portraits in the west parlor in 1976. The portraits were on special loan to Mount Vernon from Washington and Lee University. MVLA.

Mrs. Cooke was an artist, poet, playwright, gardener, and political activist who ran for office several times. Above all, however, she was a preservationist. During the 1960s, she and members of the Emergency Committee to Preserve Historic Morristown attracted national attention by climbing atop bulldozers to protest further road construction in the area of General Washington’s Revolutionary War headquarters.

Mrs. Cooke was elected Vice Regent for New Jersey in 1946 and for 40 years devoted her talents and energy to Mount Vernon. Elected Regent in 1968, she applied her political savvy to securing Congressional funding for Piscataway Park, on the Maryland shore of the Potomac River opposite Mount Vernon. Expressions of her determination to protect George Washington’s view appear frequently in her annual Council reports. Her financial insights helped steer the Association through the recession and gasoline shortages of the mid-1970s.

Working with the President

Mrs. Cooke with French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing at Mount Vernon in 1976. MVLA.

Mrs. Cooke with French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing at Mount Vernon in 1976. MVLA.

In a formal presentation held in the White House Rose Garden on June 29, 1976, Dr. Sol Feinstone—joined by President Gerald Ford and Mrs. Cooke—placed on permanent loan to Mount Vernon his collection of 127 letters President Washington wrote from Philadelphia to William Pearce, the estate’s manager, between 1793 and 1798.

Perhaps the chief highlight of Mrs. Cooke’s tenure occurred when she accepted the French government’s bicentennial gift to the United States, a spectacular outdoor son et lumiére (sound and light) tribute to the Father of Our Country; it premiered at Mount Vernon in May 1976. That historic evening, she looked appropriately patriotic—with her striking white hair and red-trimmed blue gown—as she welcomed President Ford and French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, speaking first in English and then in French.

Mrs. Cooke stepped down as Regent in 1976 and was elected Vice Regent Emerita. She retired in 1987 and died in Morristown on December 10, 1993.

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