He was a swing band musician, a Korean War veteran and a Texas cowboy, but most of all Bruce Cook was a Clemson Tiger.
Cook, who came to Clemson in 1966, directed the Tiger Marching Band from 1980-90 and became the founding director of the Brooks Center for the Performing Arts, died four days before this weekend’s Homecoming festivities.
He was 81.
Coincidentally, another figure in Tiger Band lore died on the same day.
Dean Ross, who is credited with bringing Clemson its fight song, “The Tiger Rag,” died in Gaffney at the age of 92. As student band director in 1942, he found the sheet music to the early jazz tune in an Atlanta music store and wrote an arrangement for the Clemson band, The Herald Journal of Spartanburg reported.
Cook is also remembered for the traditions he began at Clemson.
“The Tiger Band used to have a painted orange brick on a music stand that band members would rub before home games,” Cook’s son Sean Cook said. “Bruce’s Brick was as much of a tradition to Tiger Band as Howard’s Rock was to the football team.”
The brick now resides in the Brooks Center, he said.
The Tiger Alumni Band will honor him during halftime of Saturday’s homecoming game against Syracuse by spelling out “Bruce” on the field.
Cook’s life was entwined for many years with that of another Clemson band director, John Butler.
The two met at West Texas State College, now West Texas A&M University, where they were roommates.
“My dad was asked to show a new kid from Chicago around by the band director, and they became great friends,” Sean Cook said. “They played in a swing band called The Collegians and toured around West Texas.”
Cook would follow Butler in two jobs, at Butler’s encouragement.
Butler left a high school band director job and Cook stepped in. When Butler took a leave of absence from Clemson to work on a doctorate, Cook stepped in as interim band director.
He stayed on as assistant band director after Butler returned, and they worked together to expand and improve the bands and the music department.
During his time as Tiger Band director, Cook is credited with reviving the tradition of the football team running through the band after running down the Hill, the band formation spelling out of “Tigers” in script on the field and the dotting of the “i” by an honoree.
He also played a role in purple re-emerging as a Clemson color after white had virtually taken its place.
He retired in 1996 and continued to live in Clemson.
Cook was born on Aug. 24, 1933 in Quanah, Texas and worked on his family’s farm during his youth, picking cotton and going on cattle drives.
After graduating from college as the Korean War raged on, he asked the local draft board to move his name to the top of the list. He served in the Army for two years.
Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Tuesday at St. Andrews Catholic Church in Clemson.