Rev. A. R. Cocke, D.D. was ordained by Lexington Presbytery January 19, 1881. He came to the Windy Cove Presbyterian church directly from the Seminary. He was an A.B. graduate of Washington and Lee University and also a graduate of Union Seminary, Richmond, Virginia. He served as pastor at Windy Cove from 1881-1884. The Presbyterian Church at Millboro was organized during his pastorate.
Rev. Alonzo Rice Cocke was born in Campbell County, Virginia, January 7, 1858. His parents were Alonzo and Frances Rice Cocke. He was a descendent of Rev. Samuel Blair, of Faggs Manor, Pennsylvania and of the Rev. David Rice who went from Virginia to Kentucky after the Revolutionary War, and who did so much to establish Presbyterianism west of the Alleghenies.
Like Samuel of old he was early called of God. He professed conversion at the age of eight, telling his mother he hoped it was the grace of God that made him happy and he showed even then a full understanding of the plan of salvation. His father having died, his religious training devolved upon his mother. He joined Diamond Hill Church, Roanoke Presbytery, when he was nine years old. After reading the life of General Lee, he said, “I had rather preach the gospel than be the greatest general that ever was.”
He studied at New London Academy and Washington and Lee University, graduating in his twentieth year with distinction. He went to Union Seminary, a school founded by a distinguished member of his mother’s family, finishing his course at twenty-two years of age.
He preached at Covington, Virginia and Hot Springs, Arkansas, though declining calls to either of these churches. His first pastorate, beginning in 1880, was Windy Cove Church and then Millboro obtained a separate organization and he served both of these churches as pastor. In 1880 he was married to Miss Jeanie Leyburn, of Lexington, Virginia, who was very helpful to him in his work. One child, Frances Lea, came to bless their lives. While serving at Windy Cove, he met the saintly Rev. Samuel Brown who was paternal in his friendship. Rev. Cocke was forced to resign his beloved pastorate on account of ill health in 1884. After recuperating, he took a course under the brilliant Dr. R. L. Dabney in Texas. While there he taught some of the classes of Dr. Dabney who said of him, “Such a display of didactic skill and tact showed him to be a born teacher.” Great inducements were offered him to remain in Texas, but personal and domestic duties caused him to return to Virginia.
He was called to Waynesboro in 1886. The church there had 105 members, but during his pastorate it increased to five or six hundred with two organizations. In all, eight hundred were added to the church. During his pastorate there he filled the chair of Philosophy in Valley Seminary. He was offered the Presidency of Agnes Scott Seminary, Decatur, Georgia, and the chair of Systematic Theology in South Western University, Clarksville, Tennessee, but declined both offers.
He was appointed chaplain of the University of Virginia but served only one term (1895-96), as his congregation was unwilling to sever the pastoral relation. His zeal for winning souls was earnestly shown at the University of Virginia. Beginning in 1897, Dr. Cocke wrote the “Practical and Illustrative Department” of The Earnest Worker, an important magazine published by the Southern Presbyterian denomination. He also authored Studies in Ephesians and Studies in St. John and No Immersion in the Bible, all works which were enthusiastically received by his friends.
The degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred on him on the same day by Washington and Lee University, Virginia, and by Central University, Kentucky. “Such was his culture of mind and heart, his ability and many sided activities, his rare union of pastoral and preaching gifts, his tact, his sympathy and his cheerful courage, that a large promise of usefulness in the service of God and man was before him,” thus wrote one of his friends.
One of the members of the Windy Cove Church wrote, “We know that earth is better and brighter, lives richer and fuller, hopes and aspirations more glorious for those who came into close contact with his saintly life. He not only preached the glorious gospel with great earnestness and power—he lived it. He lived among his people and he loved them—each man, woman, and child felt sure of a sympathetic friend in him of him more can it be said than of any one I have ever known, “ ‘Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.’ ”
One of the last sermons he preached was from the text of Revelation 21:21, “Every several gate was of one pearl.” He seemed to be gazing beyond the Pearly Gates into the celestial city. Those beautiful gates opened for him in but a a few days later. He died at Mercy Hospital in Chicago on August 23, 1901, following an operation. His body was brought back to Waynesboro and interred in the River View Cemetery, where he awaits the resurrection call. For him to live was Christ and to die was gain.
Studies in Ephesians. Lectures delivered at the Presbyterian church at Waynesboro, VA. Chicago: Fleming H. Revell, 1892. 137 p.; 19 cm.
No Immersion in the Bible; or, Baptism as taught and practiced by Christ and the apostles. Richmond, Va., Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1893 3d ed. 80 p. [reprinted at least through eight editions]
True Culture Exemplified in Alma Mater’s Training: Address before the Alumni Association of Washington and Lee University. Lynchburg, VA.: J.P. Bell Company, Book and Job Printers, 1893. 14 p.
Studies in the Epistles of John, or, The Manifested Life. Richmond, VA: The Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1895. 159 p.; 19 cm.
The gravesite of the Rev. A. R. Cocke: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=39583857