A veteran, educator, and much more to former Cheiftains was honored Friday night.
John Cockrum served as principal and superintendent for many years at Sapulpa Public Schools. Sapulpa's mayor declared Friday “John Cockrum Day”.
More than 100 people showed to thank 89-year-old John Cockrum for inspiring them and shaping their lives. It was pulled off as a surprise at the homecoming game.
A room full of familiar faces and applause greeted Cockrum.
He served in many positions during his time at Sapulpa Public Schools from 1960 to 1973. He was a teacher, assistant superintendent, but remembered most as a high school principal.
“John was the perfect principal, he influenced us all,” said former student Rick Woolery.
His students went on to become huge successes, district attorney’s, politician, others – judges like Rick Woolery, who is Special District Judge in Creek County.
“He made sure I stayed in college when I was having financial difficulties,” said Woolery. “In the middle of class one day I get a note that the president of the university wants to see me.”
It was a talk about a letter Cockrum wrote to the university’s president, saying Woolery was too talented to leave.
Cockrum’s life was greatly influenced by wars. At the age of 18, he joined the Navy as a submarine sailor during World War II. Decades later, he lost 12 students in Vietnam. He spoke to all of them before they left.
“Tell them to come back, but they came back in those long black boxes, which was not good for us,” said Cockrum.
It still brings tears to his eyes.
Friday night, Cockrum was honored with a letter from the U.S. Secretary of the Navy who thanked him for his service. A book was also presented to Cockrum, filled with stories of how he shaped so many lives – the words inside only begin to scratch the surface.
The organizers of Friday’s event created a Facebook page for Mr. Cockrum but he doesn't even have a computer, so he says he'll have to borrow a friends to take a look.