William Bourke Cockran

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Bourke Cockran circa 1904

William Bourke Cockran (February 28, 1854 – March 1, 1923), commonly known as Bourke Cockran, was a United States Representative from New York and a noted political orator.

Early life[edit]

Born in County Sligo, Ireland, he was educated in France and in his native country, and emigrated to the United States when seventeen years of age. He was a teacher in a private academy and principal of a public school in Westchester County, New York. He studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1876 and commenced practice in Mount Vernon, New York; two years later he moved to New York City and continued the practice of law.

Political career[edit]

Beginning in 1886, Cockran, a Democrat, was a frequent candidate for the U.S. House, and won several times, serving a number of unconnected terms. Between terms, he concentrated on his New York law practice. He was a delegate to the Democratic National Conventions in 1884, 1892, 1904, and 1920, and at the 1920 convention delivered the nominating speech for Al Smith. Cockran was a member of the commission to revise the judiciary article of the New York Constitution in 1890.

Cockran publicly broke with his party in 1896, because of his opposition to the Free Silver platform of Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan. Cockran campaigned instead for Republican presidential candidate William McKinley, and this was considered a major factor in McKinley's victory. In 1900, Cockran returned to the Democratic Party, supporting Bryan's second presidential campaign and running again for Congress. Though Bryan lost to McKinley again, Cockran won.

He served his final years, 1921–1923, as a congressman, dying in Washington, D.C., on March 1, 1923. He is buried in Gate of Heaven Cemetery, Hawthorne, New York.

In 1895, Cockran, a friend of Britain's Churchill family and reputed one-time lover of Jennie Churchill, introduced her 20-year-old son, Winston Churchill, to American high society during Churchill's first trip to New York. Years later, as British prime minister, Churchill credited Cockran as his first political mentor and the chief role model for his own success as an orator.

References[edit]

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Abraham Dowdney
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 12th congressional district

1887–1889
Succeeded by
Roswell P. Flower
Preceded by
Francis Spinola
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 10th congressional district

1891–1893
Succeeded by
Daniel Sickles
Preceded by
Joseph J. Little
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 12th congressional district

1893–1895
Succeeded by
George B. McClellan, Jr.
Preceded by
George B. McClellan, Jr.
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 12th congressional district

1904–1909
Succeeded by
Michael Conry
Preceded by
Thomas F. Smith
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 16th congressional district

1921–1923
Succeeded by
John J. O'Connor