2021 NBCA Hall of fame Inductee Law

Mrs. Dorothy Brown Cook

Mrs. Dorothy Brown Cook, was elected as the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, in 2000, and was re-elected to four additional terms of Office, making her the longest serving Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, and the longest serving African American serving in a county-wide, Cook County, Illinois, executive elected office.  Dorothy retired from elected office on November 30, 2020.  As the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Dorothy was the official keeper of records for all judicial matters brought into one of the largest unified court systems in the world, and she was responsible for managing an annual operating budget of more than $100 million and a workforce of 1,700 employees.

Dorothy brought revolutionary changes to the operations of the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office through her focus on improving services within five strategic areas: 21st Century Technology, Operational Efficiency, Customer Service, Employee Training and Development, and Financial Accountability.  Dorothy implemented a host of innovative programs, which streamlined processes, enhanced customer service, saved millions of dollars for taxpayers, and increased revenue for Cook County administration.  During Dorothy’s final year in office, she replaced the 40-year case management system, with a 21st century state of the arts court case management system.

Mrs. Dorothy Brown Cook is an Attorney, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), and she holds a Masters’ Degree in Business Administration (MBA).  Dorothy is one of eight children, born to a staunch unionist father and a deeply religious mother.  Dorothy and her seven siblings all attended Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  Dorothy grew up in the small, southern town of Minden, Louisiana.  Although her parents were poor and uneducated, they instilled in Dorothy and her seven siblings, the values of sacrifice, self- discipline, and the importance of obtaining a good education.

Dorothy’s humble upbringing fueled her efforts in high school, college and throughout her professional and elected official careers.  Dorothy first distinguished herself as captain of the Webster High School girls’ varsity basketball team and continued by graduating in the top ten percent of her high school class. Throughout high school, Dorothy helped with her high school expenses by working as a housekeeper during the evenings. During the summer months after her junior year of high school, Dorothy worked in a government-funded nutritional program for welfare mothers.

When Dorothy entered college in 1971 at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, she continued her quest for educational and professional excellence.  While at Southern, Dorothy honed her civil rights roots, participating in the boycott of classes, and actually, came face to face with the national guard, as she exited the Administration building that had been taken over by students to demand the President address student demands of underfunding and others.  Dorothy found out later that the national guard had killed two Southern University students that were standing outside of the Administration building, trying to protect the students inside of the building.  Dorothy demonstrated her leadership skills that day, by leading a group of girls out of the Administration building, who were hiding in the restroom, after unsuccessfully leaving the building with Dorothy, to retrieve supplies from the University medical center as the national guard approached, and then re-entering the building just as the national guard shot out the windows with tear gas cannisters.  This was an experience that shaped Dorothy’s few of wanting to make a difference for African Americans. 

Dorothy worked on a paint assembly line in a factory, Pathfinder, Inc., in Niles, Illinois. The income from that job helped to defray her college expenses.  Dorothy graduated Magna Cum Laude from Southern University in 1975.  Dorothy graduated number one in the College of Business, and number four (4) in her entire Southern University graduating class.

In 1975, Dorothy was recruited and bought to Chicago by Commonwealth Edison Company, the electric utility company.  In 1978, Dorothy received her license as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).   As a CPA, Dorothy worked for Arthur Anderson & Company, at the time, the largest accounting firm in the world.  In 1981, she received her Masters’ in Business Administration (MBA) with honors from DePaul University in Chicago.  She worked for First National Bank of Chicago from 1981 to 1984, and then from 1984 to 1991 for Odell Hicks & Company, an African American CPA firm as a Senior Manager. Fifteen years after receiving her MBA, Dorothy received her law degree (Jurist Doctorate), in 1996 with honors from Chicago-Kent College of Law. Dorothy attended law school at night while successfully managing a full-time career during the day and raising her daughter.  Dorothy received a multitude of awards and recognitions during her career.

Dorothy lives in Chicago with her husband Dr. Benton Cook III, and she has a daughter, Detris, a graduate of Howard University in Washington, DC, London Metropolitan University, London, England, and also graduated with a Masters’ in Business Administration from American International University, London, England.

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