Cooke Family Papers

Identifier: 2013-20

Scope and Contents

The Cooke Family Papers document the prominent Cooke and Herz families. Though these materials include background and biographical information on the extended families of both Thomas Arthur "Tom" Cooke and his wife, Martha Patricia "Patty" Cooke (née Herz), much of what appears in the collection pertains primarily to Tom's work, and to a lesser extent Patty and their immediate families. Several other family names appear in this collection include the McSorley family on Tom's mother's side and the Moore, Myers, Walker, and House families all from Scotland County, Missouri on Patty's mother’s side. Because this collection encompasses multiple members of the same family, individuals will be referred to by their first name throughout the guide to avoid confusion.

Materials in this collection offer considerable insight and information into the lives and work of the Cooke family, especially Tom's various legal work and projects pertaining to conservation and historic preservation in northern Nevada. It also provides background information on the histories of both extended families dating back to the mid-19th century. Materials consist of correspondence, memoranda, speeches, newspaper clippings, magazine articles, meeting minutes, political campaign planning information, reports, court cases and other legal files, awards and certificates, newsletters, and various printed ephemera.

Series 1: Thomas Arthur Cooke, pertains specifically to the life and career of Thomas Cooke, and includes information and materials from his professional career as a lawyer as well as his pursuits in conservation, recreational, and historic preservation projects. This series contains a variety of legal materials, including court case files, a lifetime of personal correspondence, board meeting minutes and memoranda, political campaign materials and itinerary, newspaper clippings, conservation information in regards to development in the Lake Tahoe Basin, and the survey materials regarding the state of historic structures in northern Nevada, particularly Virginia City.

Series 2: Martha Patricia Herz Cooke, is comprised of materials of significance created and collected by Patty Cooke over her lifetime. This includes information and materials on the organizations she belonged to including the YWCA, and her interests in Reno's history and the preservation of its historic sites such as the Mapes Hotel. Materials include yearbooks from Reno High School, scrapbooks, newspaper clippings, YWCA board materials, and correspondence.

Series 3: Cooke Family, includes background and biographical information and material on members of Thomas Cooke's family including materials created and gathered by his father, Herman Richard Cooke. Because of his work on mining litigation cases, H. R. managed to accumulate a variety of mining company stock certificates, many of which belonged to him, but others that may have belonged to clients or been collected as keepsakes. Also included is biographical information on the Cooke and McSorley families in the form of scrapbooks and genealogical research.

Series 4: Herz Family, includes background and biographical materials on members of both Patty Cooke's mother and father's sides of the family. This series includes information, articles, and newspaper clippings on the R. Herz & Brother Jewelers business in Reno. It also includes scrapbooks, genealogical information, and obituaries for various members of the Herz, Moore, Myers, House, and Walker families from Scotland County, Missouri.


  • 1855-2009
  • Majority of material found within 1940-2000


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials must be used on-site; advance notice suggested. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.

Biographical Note

Born in 1873 in Bastrop, Texas, Herman Richard Cooke was the son of Swedish immigrants Herman William Cook and Matilda Vetell, who first arrived in the United States in 1866. The last name Cooke originally came from Koch, which was then anglicized to Cook. The "e" on the end was added later by H. R. when he thought the addition might improve the look. The fledgling Cooke family attempted to establish homesteads in Nebraska, Dakota, Idaho, and Texas before finally settling in Walla Walla, Washington.

As a child, H. R. possessed an affinity for reading and enjoyed spending time at the Walla Walla courthouse "listening" to cases and proceedings. At the age of 15, he left home, attended Whitman College, and read the law in the offices of Senator William Borah in Boise, Idaho. By the time he was 22, H. R. was admitted to the Idaho bar. After practicing in Idaho for several years, H. R. sought a change. Drawn to the mining activity and interests in Nevada, he moved to Tuscarora in 1898 and began practicing law. In the early 1900s, H. R. also practiced in Elko, Reno, and Sparks. While in northern Nevada, H. R. was responsible for drafting the original charters for the cities of both Reno and Sparks.

In 1906, H. R. moved to Tonopah and engaged in some of the most important mining litigation of the period including the trials of the Tonopah Mining Company. He also served as the attorney and director of Round Mountain Mines, Inc. It was during this stint in Tonopah that H. R. met and married Annie Catherine McSorley (1878-1956), the daughter of Irish immigrants who had settled in Calaveras County in California's gold country. At the time, in 1910, Annie was working as the official court reporter for the Fifth Judicial District Court of Nye County.

The couple had their first son, Herman Richard "Dick" Cooke Jr. in 1914 and their second, Thomas Arthur "Tom" Cooke in San Francisco on August 8, 1920. Soon after the birth of Tom, the family relocated to Reno where H. R. formed the law firm of Cooke, French, and Stoddard with Leroy N. French and Roy W. Stoddard. In 1928, H. R. became the first president of the Nevada State Bar and saw it through the process of incorporation.

In addition to his law practice, H. R. was an ardent Democrat who served as a delegate to numerous state and national Democratic Party conventions, and in 1934, ran an unsuccessful primary campaign against incumbent U.S. Senator, Key Pittman.

From 1933-1949, H. R. practiced solo until he was joined by his son, Tom in the establishment of the law firm of Cooke & Cooke, which only lasted briefly due to the passing of H. R. Known for his dynamic personality, unremitting attention, and persistence as a lawyer, H. R. passed away in 1952 at the age of 79. His legacy continued, however, in the life and work of his youngest son, Tom.

Tom, unlike his stern and imposing father, enjoyed a reputation as a lawyer with a kind heart and Irish wit. However, much like his father, Tom also embodied the same dedication to public service, impeccable ethics, and unwavering belief in the rule of law. In his obituary, Rollan Melton referred to Tom Cooke as "the magnificent Nevada champion of personal liberties..." Melton further added, "His charm and wit were pure class. However, he also had a thick hide that critics couldn't dent with a spear. When he put his mind to get a worthwhile thing out in the open, the issue was resolved in the public's favor."

Tom grew up in Reno, attended Mt. Rose Elementary School, Reno High School, and graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno where he was a member of the Alpha Tau Omega (ATO) fraternity. During World War II, Tom served in the U.S. Navy, attaining the rank of lieutenant commander and earning the Navy Unit Citation and Bronze Star for bravery in combat at Leyte Gulf, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. During the War, in May 1944, Tom married his college sweetheart, Martha Patricia "Patty" Herz, a member of the notable, long-time Reno family. After his military service, Tom returned stateside and used the G.I. Bill to attend law school at the Hasting School of Law in San Francisco. He completed his degree in 1948 and returned to Reno to begin practicing law with his father as a part of the Cooke & Cooke law firm. The father-son duo worked together until H. R.'s death in 1952.

Following the death of his father, Tom and Bruce Roberts formed a law firm situated in the old Cooke family home on Court Street overlooking Wingfield Park. The two remained partners for more than 34 years and during that time also added David Reese to their practice in 1966. Throughout his career, Tom's law colleagues held him in high esteem, and as such, in 1970, they voted him president of the Nevada State Bar, a position held by his father more than 40 years earlier. During his tenure as president, Tom was integral in helping to establish the "Client Security Fund," which continues to reimburse clients defrauded or swindled by unscrupulous lawyers.

In addition to his legal contributions, Tom tirelessly devoted himself to the furtherance of many causes concerning the protection of northern Nevada's history and environment. Some of Tom's activities and accomplishments in these areas included serving for five years with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA), acting as a board member of the Open Steamboat Trail Association, and serving as the chair of the Washoe County Park Commission from its inception in 1961 until 1964. In regards to historic preservation, he chaired the Virginia City Historical Commission, the Comstock Historic District Commission, was a member of the Board of the National Trust for Historical Preservation, and a member of the Nevada Historical Society.

Tom passed away unexpectedly on June 6, 1994. He was survived by his wife Patty and their four daughters. At the time of his passing, Tom and Patty had been married for more than 50 years.

Patty Cooke (née Herz) was born in Reno on September 30, 1923, to Martha Henrietta Moore and Rudolph Herz. Patty and her twin sister, Nancy were the fourth and fifth of six children. Their other siblings included James, Homer, Robert, and the youngest, Thomas. As a young child, her father invited his mother-in-law, Martha Moore, sister-in-law, Lou Ella Walker, and brother-in-law, John Moore to move from Scotland County, Missouri to live in a small home on West Second Street owned by the Herz family.

Patty’s grandfather, Richard Herz, a watchmaker for the Royal Court in Germany, came to Nevada in 1883 and two years later founded R. Herz & Brother Jewelers in Reno with his brother, Carl Otto. Herz & Brother Jewelers was one most prestigious and enduring institutions in Reno for more than 120 years until its closing in 2007.

Patty attended Reno High School and later attended the University of Nevada, Reno where she earned a degree in psychology and went on to pass the state exam for social work. It was at UNR where she also met her husband, Tom, at the Blue Key dance while she was a freshman and he a senior.

While Tom was serving overseas, Patty worked at her father's store, Reno Jewelry Company (an unintended offshoot of Herz & Brother). After the war, Tom returned and the young couple moved briefly to San Francisco for Tom to attend law school. Tom and Patty returned to Reno and had four daughters: Carol Cooke (1950), Kathleen Cooke (1952), Valerie Cooke (1953), and Theresa Cooke (1956). The family moved into a house at 30 Sonora Circle where Tom and Patty both lived until their passing.

Although Patty possessed a college degree and the qualifications to become a social worker, she like many other women of her generation did not work. However, she volunteered with the Reno-Sparks Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) and eventually became president of the board in 1981. In addition to belonging to the YCWA board, Patty also was an early member of the League of Women Voters and volunteered on numerous Democratic campaigns including working alongside her husband on Grant Sawyer's 1958 run for governor. She also worked with other local women in ongoing efforts to preserve portions of Reno's history including preservation of Riverside Drive, saving the Mapes Hotel, and the relocation of the Lake Mansion. Patty passed away at home, on February 15, 2012.

The legacy of the Cooke family lives on in northern Nevada not only in the friends who had the honor of knowing them and experiencing their dedication to the community, but also in the local trails and parks that now bear the last name, and in the historic resources that were preserved as a result of efforts put forth by both Tom and Patty.


20.6 Linear Feet (19 boxes, 1 oversize folder)

Language of Materials



Thomas Arthur "Tom" Cooke was a prominent and well-respected lawyer in Reno. He married Martha Patricia "Patty" Herz while in college at the University of Nevada in the early 1940s. The Cooke family was involved in a variety of environmental, recreational, and historic preservation projects and initiatives that sought to improve northern Nevada. Materials cover some aspects of the lives and careers of members of the Cooke and Herz families. Topics include Democratic politics in Nevada, Washoe County Parks, historic preservation of Nevada landmarks, specifically buildings in Virginia City, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the opening of the Steamboat Ditch Trail, the Reno-Sparks YWCA and more.


Arranged into the following series: 1) Thomas Arthur Cooke; 2) Martha Patricia Herz Cooke; 3) Cooke Family; 4) Herz Family

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Cindy Sutherland, Trustee for the Cooke Family Trust Agreement, in August 2013.

Related Materials

Related archival materials held by the UNR Special Collections Department:

Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Records (82-37)

Reno/Sparks YWCA Records (94-53)

Reno/Sparks YWCA History Collection (96-04)

Separated Materials

Photographs transferred to the Special Collections Photo Archives as collection number UNRS-P2017-20.

Guide to the Cooke Family Papers
Edan Strekal
December 2017
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Nevada, Reno. Special Collections Department Repository

Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center
1664 N. Virginia St.
Reno Nevada 89557-0322 USA
775-682-5724 (Fax)