Past Times – Sam B. Cook
Story by Megan Whitehead | Aug 31, 2016
On January 9, 1902, Central Bank took root in our community. Founded by former governor Lon V. Stephens, the Central Missouri Trust Company began its legacy with Sam Cook as its president.
In July, Cook’s grandson, Sam B. Cook, who led Central Bank since 1961, passed away. He was 91 years old.
The elder Sam Cook, with other Jefferson City leaders, worked tirelessly in the early 1900s to secure our city as the state’s capital. Under his leadership, the Central Missouri Trust Company moved into its first location, on the corner of High and Madison streets, not far from the new capitol building for which Cook fought. To further cement his legacy as an important community leader, his bank was built with the same stones used to build the capitol.
Over the following years, Central Missouri Trust Company’s success grew in accordance with Cook’s dedication to growing Jefferson City. Upon Cook’s death, the bank was passed to his son, Howard, who kept it, and the local economy, afloat during the height of the Great Depression. When the Depression started, Jefferson City had six banks. By the time the Depression was over, Central Bank stood as one of only two that had survived.
In 1961, the Central Missouri Trust Company was once again passed from father to son. Sam B. Cook, a Yale graduate and World War II veteran, took over the bank and brought about further growth, to the bank and to Jefferson City. Under Sam B. Cook, a new location was opened. This new site, three blocks from the original location, won an award from the American Institute of Architects.
In 1969, the bank become the Central Trust Bank, which was shortened again, in 1987, to Central Bank. Under the leadership of Cook and his brother, Howard W. Cook, Central Bancompany Inc., consisting of 13 banks in Missouri, was formed in 1970.
Central Bancompany has grown to be one of the most prominent bank holding companies in Missouri due to the leadership of Sam B. Cook. It is also continually listed on Forbes’ Best Banks in America list.
Mr. Cook’s leadership didn’t stop at the bank; he was always heavily involved in Jefferson City and Missouri philanthropies. He was chairman of the board of commissioners of the Jefferson City Housing Authority. He worked with the city’s Environmental Quality Commission. He helped open the Jefferson City YMCA. Statewide, he was involved with the State Highway Commission, Missouri Chamber of Commerce, the UM Board of Curators, and the Missouri Bankers Association. He was also on the boards of many higher education institutions, including William Woods University, Washington University, and MU. He established a chair in economics at MU and contributed to Yale University and Washington University. The Sam B. Cook Healthplex, at Capital Region Medical Center, was named for him due to his financial donations. He also helped fund the construction of SSM Health – St. Mary’s.
Sam B. Cook’s legacy is firmly rooted in Jefferson City. His work with Central Bank, his dedication to the improvement of our community, and the relationships he made throughout his life here will have a lasting impact. Thank you, Mr. Cook.