Ben Johnson Memorial Award
Born in 1925, A.J. “Jack” Cooke graduated from the Cornell University College of Agriculture and has since devoted his life to the American livestock industry. After working as a cattle buyer, and ranching in Arizona and California, he became manager of Hearst Corporation’s ranching, farming, and real estate interests. A long-time member of Rancheros Visitadores, Cooke for many years also played a central role in managing the San Francisco Cow Palace. In 1997 he was named Cattleman of the Year by the San Luis Obispo Cattlemen’s Association, and in 1999, Livestock Man of the Year by the California Chamber of Commerce.
Cooke’s contributions to livestock and ranching extend well beyond commerce. In the early 1980s he founded the Junior Grand National Association, which provides 4-H and FFA youths the opportunity to show their animals in a nationally recognized forum. With his wife, Phoebe, Cooke also created a horseback-riding therapy program for physically challenged children, which has enriched the lives of more than 1,200 young people over the past 20 years. And, with his abiding interest in ranching heritage, he has been a long-time supporter of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, serving as Chairman of the Rodeo Historical Society Committee for six years and as Chairman of the Museum Board of Directors.