15,000 Attend Rites to Sam Cooke
CHICAGO — A crowd estimated at 15,000 flocked to the Tabernacle Baptist Church on the South Side Thursday night, December 17, to pay last respects to the late Sam Cooke, who was shot and killed in Los Angeles on December 11 (last year).
Only a third of the crowd could be accommodated in the church and 50 policemen were called to shepherd the overflow which milled about in near zero weather for several hours until permitted to file past Cooke’s casket after the church emptied.
Earlier in the day heavyweight boxing champion Cassius Clay viewed Cooke’s body at the A. R. Leak Funeral Home, where he laid in an open coffin in three-quarter view, shielded under a protective glass cover.
The RCA recording artist was fatally shot in Los Angeles by a woman hotel manager who said Cooke had burst in her office threateningly and a scuffle ensued between the two. After the police conducted their investigation the shooting was ruled as justifiable homicide. The report concluded the hotel proprietor had acted accordingly in self-defense during an attack allegedly perpetrated by Cooke.
Tearful and poetic eulogies were intoned by several Negro ministers who knew Cooke from the days he and his seven brothers and sisters formed a gospel singing group called the Child Singers. This was shortly after the family moved to Chicago from Mississippi.
Cooke graduated to the Highway’s QC’s, winning a wide and divided and devoted gospel-mode following in the great Chicago ghetto. In 1949, he joine the Soul Stirrers, and led the troupe from the church circuit to the Copa.
“The world is better because Sam Cooke lived,” eulogized the Reverend Lewis Rawls. “He inspired many youths of all races and creeds.”
E. Rodney Jones, representing WVON radio station owner Leonard Chess, said: “As long as music exists, Sam Cooke will live.” WVON broadcast the entire memorial service.
Cooke was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California. He was 33. END.
Addendum: There has been several variations and accounts on what actually took place on December 11, 1964, the morning Sam Cooke died at the Hacienda Motel in Los Angeles.
For more on the career, untimely death of Sam Cooke, go here. For a detailed, comprehensive account of Cooke’s shooting, begin here. Here also, a Los Angeles police crime scene photo showing Sam Cooke as he was found at the motel. Below: Dick Clark interviews Sam Cooke on AB in 1964. And, the official Sam Cooke Facebook page today, here.
(Information and news source: Billboard; January 2, 1965).