Cochrane, William McWhorter, 1917-

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William McWhorter Cochrane (1917- ) of Newton and Chapel Hill, N.C., and Washington, D.C., worked for the United States Senate in various capacities for more than 40 years.

From the description of William McWhorter Cochrane papers, 1862-2002 [manuscript]. WorldCat record id: 53405163

William McWhorter Cochrane, only son of William Daniel Cochrane and Nancy Veazy Fillingim Cochrane, was born in Newton, N.C., on 6 March 1917. In his youth, he was active in the Boy Scouts of America. He was graduated from Newton-Conover High School in May 1933. He enrolled at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill in the fall of 1934, but left after three years to return to Newton to earn money. He then returned to Chapel Hill, earning his A.B. in journalism in 1939, and his LL.B. in 1941. Cochrane was very active in campus affairs. He was inducted into the Order of the Golden Fleece in 1941, he managed a dormitory, he was elected speaker of the student government, and he was the director of the Graham Memorial Student Union in 1941 and 1942. While he was a law student, Cochrane also worked part time for the Institute of Government under the direction of Albert Coates. He joined the Institute full time as the Assistant Director upon his graduation. It was during this time that Cochrane met Shirley Graves, a Chapel Hill native and daughter of English professor Thornton Shirley Graves.

In July 1941, Cochrane joined the United States Naval Reserve. He was called to active duty in July 1942 as an apprentice seaman. After his initial training, Cochrane spent much of his time in Miami at the Submarine-Chaser Training School and as the officer in charge of the McAllister Hotel Barracks. In March 1944, he was assigned to the minesweeper U.S.S. Improve, which worked off the Mediterranean coast.

On 3 June 1945, he married Shirley Graves, who was a student at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, Ga. In November 1945, Cochrane, who was then a lieutenant, was released to inactive duty. He remained a member of the Naval Ready Reserve until his retirement in 1977.

Following the war, Cochrane returned to Chapel Hill to work for the Institute of Government, where he oversaw the publication of Popular Government . In 1951, he graduated with his LL.M. from Yale University, and, in 1952, he became an Associate Research Professor of Public Law and Government at the University of North Carolina. In 1954, Cochrane moved to Washington, D.C., to spend a year helping the newly elected Senator W. Kerr Scott get settled, but he remained in the Capitol for more than 40 years serving in various capacities. He was the Executive Secretary and Legal Counsel for Senator Scott until Scott's death in 1957. He then served as the Administrative Assistant to Senator B. Everett Jordan, 1958-1972. Beginning in 1968, Cochrane became active on the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, helping to plan presidential inaugurations for both Democrats and Republicans through 1993. In 1972, following Jordan's defeat, Cochrane was appointed staff director and majority counsel of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration. He served as the minority staff director, 1980-1986, and as the senior advisor to the Rules Committee, 1987-1994. Cochrane also served as the deputy staff director for the Joint Committee on the Library, 1972-1993. In 1995, the Library of Congress hired Cochrane to serve as an honorary historical consultant.

Although Cochrane labeled himself a Yellow Dog Democrat, he earned the respect of Democrats and Republicans alike. He had extensive contacts in North Carolina and Washington, D.C., and was known as the person for North Carolinians to go to for jobs in the capitol. He also retained close ties with North Carolina and the University of North Carolina, where he was active in the General Alumni Association, the Board of Visitors, and the North Caroliniana Society. In 1979, Cochrane received the Roll Call Congressional Staff Award for his dedicated service. He also received the Distinguished Alumnus Award for Public Service from the University of North Carolina in 1978 and the North Carolina Award for Public Service in 1992.

William and Shirley Cochrane adopted two sons, William Daniel Cochrane, who was born on 13 January 1953, and Thomas McWhorter Cochrane, who was born on 27 November 1956.

From the guide to the William McWhorter Cochrane Papers, 1862-2002, (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library. Southern Historical Collection.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Hugh Morton Photographs and Films, late 1920s-2006, (bulk 1940s-1990s) University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library. North Carolina Collection.
referencedIn Morton, Hugh M. Hugh Morton photographs and films: People and events, late 1920s-early 2000s (bulk 1940s-1990s) (Series 2). University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
creatorOf William McWhorter Cochrane Papers, 1862-2002 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library. Southern Historical Collection
Role Title Holding Repository
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Place Name Admin Code Country
North Carolina
B. Everett Jordan Lake (N.C.)
United States
Newton (N.C.)
Women authors, American
Political campaigns


Birth 1917



Ark ID: w60c6k38

SNAC ID: 8670095