She taught at Deshler High School and would have her gun and holster on over her skirt while she taught. Her students said they were not upset or scared of the gun. There were rumors that she was a target because of who she was going up against, but again, her students weren't upset and quivering in their shoes because she had a gun.
One of the South's first female sheriffs, Frances M. Cook, died Wednesday. She was 86.
Cook was the sheriff of Colbert County during the mid-1960s. She was appointed by Gov. George Wallace to fill the remainder of the term of her husband, who had been killed in the line of duty less than a year after taking office.
"She was a great citizen and an outstanding law enforcement official," said former U.S. Sen. Howell Heflin of Tuscumbia, who was the special prosecutor appointed to try the man accused of killing Sheriff Herman "Red" Cook and Littleville Police Chief Neil Pace.
Heflin said Frances Cook became keenly interested in law enforcement and carried out her husband's campaign platform of cleaning up
bootlegging. "She was interested in cleaning up the situation regarding bootlegging and other types of law violations," he said.
Female office-holders, especially law enforcement offices, were extremely rare at that time, but Heflin said Cook quickly established herself as an official to be reckoned with.
"Those that knew her knew her to be extremely competent and tough, indeed," he said. "It wasn't long before she was pretty well accepted, and that she meant business."
Former Colbert Sheriff Buddy Aldridge said she worked closely with her husband in his campaign and wanted to continue his work.
At that time, Aldridge was working for the Tennessee Valley Authority and was seeking a second term as public safety commissioner on the Tuscumbia City Commission. He said he and Florence attorney Frank Potts, who had been involved in Wallace's gubernatorial campaigns, went to Montgomery and asked the governor to appoint her to the sheriff's office.
"She did a good job," Aldridge said. "She didn't take no shenanigans from anybody. She was a good lady."
Heflin and Sheffield Police Chief Doug Aycock said Cook was an avid gardener.
"She had a garden and I would stop by and visit with her on occasion," Aycock said. "She was always nice to me. She was a woman of strong principles.
"She was tough and didn't let anyone run over her," he said. "She stood for what was right."
Herman Cook was killed in August 1964 when he, Chief Pace, Deputy Donald Files and another officer were searching for illegal alcohol near Littleville. They were near the house of a man suspected of selling alcohol in the dry county when they were shot, Aldridge said. The fourth officer went for help and the man was captured. The suspect, who suffered from cancer, died in jail while awaiting trial, Heflin said.
Visitation for Cook will be 5-7 p.m. Friday at her residence at 3005 Cook Lane, Tuscumbia. The funeral will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at Tuscumbia Church of Christ. Morrison Funeral Home, Tuscumbia, is in charge of arrangements.