Sterling Cockrill

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Sterling Robertson Cockrill​, Jr.

Arkansas State Representative for Pulaski County (Little Rock)]
In office
January 1, 1957​ – December 31, 1970​

Speaker of the Arkansas House of Representatives​
In office
1967​ – 1968​
Preceded by J. H. Cottrell, Jr.​
Succeeded by Hayes C. McClerkin

Born April 7, 1925​
Little Rock, Arkansas​
Political party Democrat-turned-Republican (1970)​
Spouse(s) Adrienne Storey Cockrill​
Children Two daughters​
Residence Little Rock, Arkansas​
Alma mater University of Arkansas
Occupation Insurance agent, government employee

Urban planner​, artist
United States Navy in World War II and the Korean War

Sterling Robertson Cockrill, Jr. (born April 7, 1925), is a retired politician and civic leader and artist in the capital city of Little Rock, Arkansas.​ ​


Cockrill is a descendant of the 19th century U.S. Senator Chester Ashley (1791–1848) of Arkansas,[1] the co-founder of the politically-connected Rose Law Firm in Little Rock and the namesake of Ashley County in south Arkansas. Another Sterling Robertson Cockrill, a native of Nashville, Tennessee, became the youngest ever chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. He died in 1901 at the age of fifty-three. Chief Justice Cockrill's wife was a granddaughter of Senator Ashley; their son was named Ashley Cockrill.[2]

Cockrill served in the United States Navy during the closing days of World War II and in the Korean War. He received a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and joined the insurance agency owned by his father in Little Rock. Cockrill and his wife, the former Adrienne Storey (born 1926), have two daughters.[1]

Political career

Cockrill was elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives as a Democrat in 1956, the same year that Orval Faubus won a second then two-year term as governor. He remained in the state House until December 31, 1970, and was the Speaker for a single term from 1967 to 1968.

In 1968, Speaker Cockrill had criticized Republican Governor Winthrop Rockefeller's proclaimed "Era of Excellence," as having never materialized.[3] In the spring of 1970, however, Cockrill switched affiliation to the GOP to run for lieutenant governor on the ticket] ticket headed by the two-term Rockefeller, who sought a third-terme.[1] He explained his party bolt in the pamphlet entitled, "The Conscience of an Arkansan." Cockrill criticized the Democratic loyalty oath and accused the Democrats of being willing to "do anything, say anything, tell anything, create anything in order to win."[4] Cockrill won the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor with 88 percent of the vote over the politically unknown Gerald Williams of North Little Rock.[5] Cockrill replaced Lieutenant Governor Maurice Britt on the Republican ticket, who instead served as the Rockefeller campaign manager.[3]

Though they waged vigorous campaigns, Rockefeller and Cockrill were defeated by the united Democratic slate headed by Dale Bumpers and Bob Cowley Riley. In the Democratic primary, Bumpers triumphed over Faubus and then dislodged Rockefeller with ease. Cockrill lost to Riley, a political science professor at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. Riley received 334,379 votes (56.5 percent) to Cockrill's 232,429 (39.3 percent). The remaining 4 percent of the vote was cast for the American Independent Party nominee Robert Blanton of Hughes in St. Francis County in eastern Arkansas. Cockrill received majorities in Searcy and Washington counties and polled 35,000 more votes than did Rockefeller, as some voters cast split ballots for Bumpers and Cockrill.[6]

Riley attributed his victory to the Democratic "team effort" and accused Cockrill of having engaged in "mudslinging, character assassination, and hate emotions." Riley accused Cockrill supporters of having circulated "vicious statements about me" in African-American neighborhoods. Riley said that he still considered Cockrill a "friend" and hoped that the tactics he found so distasteful had been the work of GOP activists acting without Cockrill's knowledge.[7]

After the 1970 campaign, Cockrill did not again seek public office. From 1971 to 1978, he worked as an urban planner in the Little Rock office of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. Cockrill was subsequently the executive director of several organizations dedicated to the revitalization of downtown Little Rock, such as Little Rock Unlimted Progress and the Metrocentre Improvement District.[1]

After retiring from those positions in 1990, Cockrill became an artist. He creates Picasso-like sculptures from oak wood taken from old barns.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Sterling Cockrill Collection. Retrieved on September 7, 2013.
  2. Sterling Robertson Cockrill (1847–1901). Encyclopedia of Arkansas. Retrieved on September 7, 2013.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Arkansas Democrat, November 3, 1970.
  4. Sterling R. Cockrill, "The Conscience of an Arkansan," 1970 Arkansas Republican campaign pamphlet.
  5. Arkansas Secretary of State, Primary election returns, 1970.
  6. Arkansas Secretary of State, General election returns, November 3, 1970.
  7. Arkansas Gazette, November 5, 1970.