Cenizo Journal Winter 2023 | Page 23

“ Harold was old school ,” Mackowiak tweeted . “ He was brilliant , funny , a storyteller and a historian . He was a mensch . Great fun to be with .”

“ sponsored redistricting legislation ? Harold helped keep the Texas lawmakers occupied in the Land of Enchantment for 46 days before they trudged back to Austin to face the inevitable .

“ He knew how to do the hard work of strategy in a way that felt easier than it was ,” said former Austin mayor and state Sen . Kirk Watson , speaking to Spectrum News . “ That was because of his detailed thoughts about what was going on and his sense of humor , which was always just under the surface .”
He was born Harold Lee Cook III – thus the nickname Tres – in Houston on Jan . 16 , 1961 . Graduating from Bellaire High School in Houston in 1979 , he worked on offshore oil rigs for a few years , played and sang in piano bars and then received his undergraduate degree from the University of Houston in 1988 .
His first political job was serving as an aide to former state Rep . Debra Danburg , D-Houston . He also worked closely with former Land Commissioner Gary Mauro , former Texas Secretary of State John Hannah , Jr ., and dozens of other elected officials and organizations .
He served as executive director of the Texas Democratic Party in the late 1990s . Wayne Hamilton , his Republican Party counterpart , got to know him well .
“ Our headaches were exactly the same , even if our issues were different . That ’ s how we became friends ,” Hamilton told Spectrum News . “ Any time we shared a meal together , we were merciless on each other . Anything was fair game . To think he ’ s gone makes me very sad .”
Harold later became a featured commentator on Time Warner ’ s “ Capitol Tonight ” TV show , where his astute observations were served with a generous seasoning of peppery wit . On the show , Harold was regularly paired with Republican operatives Ted Delisi or Matt Mackowiak , both of whom considered him a friend despite their sharp political differences .
“ Harold was old school ,” Mackowiak tweeted . “ He was brilliant , funny , a storyteller and a historian . He was a mensch . Great fun to be with .”
Current Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa recalled his predecessor ’ s leadership ability . “ Harold had a truly magnetic personality — everyone who met him was charmed by his remarkably quick wit ,” he said . “ He had a sense of humor that would fill a room and inspire all of us to find that balance between taking our values seriously but ourselves less so .”
" He was a pro ," said veteran political consultant Bill Miller . " In our profession , that is the highest accolade ."
A longtime Austin resident and Capitol fixture , Harold discovered Marathon in Far West Texas in the early 1990s . His close friend , the noted newspaper columnist and author Molly Ivins , happened upon the laid-back , unpretentious little town earlier and planned to build a writer ’ s cabin on a plot of land she owned , but when she realized that her breast cancer was terminal , she sold the property to Harold . He eventually built an exquisite onebedroom , one-bath casita , with spectacular front-porch views of the Glass Mountains and Santiago Peak . He shared the house with Travis , a big , grinning galoot of a dog who loved bounding down the front-porch steps and greeting guests at the gate .
Harold began spending more and more time in Marathon , particularly during the pandemic , and was a regular for the weekly burger night at the French Grocer ( now offering the Harold Burger in his honor ), at the Gage Hotel ’ s White Buffalo Bar ( where his drink of choice was “ ranch water "), with friends at Brick Vault BBQ and as part of festive holiday get-togethers around town . Although he kept his house in Austin , Marathon became his home ( and Travis ’ s ).
“ He loved entertaining ,” his long-time friend Rachel Truair wrote on Facebook . “ Holding court and sipping chilled tequila watching the West Texas sunset was Harold in his element .”
“ Harold Cook was a force of nature , and friendship , in Texas politics ,” political consultant Russ Tidwell , a fellow Marathonian and decades-long friend , wrote on Facebook . “ He will be sorely missed .”
He was preceded in death by his parents , Martha Rondeaux Cook and Harold L . Cook , Jr ., and is survived by his sister , Marty Payne , and her husband , Tom , of Boise , Idaho ; his nephew , Matthew Payne ; and his loyal canine companion , Travis . His family extends special love and gratitude to his Marathon family : Russ Tidwell , Tom and Rosalinda Crase , Jenn and Kody Rakowitz , and Kathy and Roger Pinckney ; and to his Austin family , Meredith and Stratton Delk .
In lieu of flowers , Harold would have loved for his friends to support the Marathon Volunteer Fire Department and the Marathon Public Library . His sister expresses her heartfelt thanks to the fire department , the Brewster County Sheriff ’ s Department and the Gage Hotel for their compassionate assistance . �

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