It’s no secret that Tim Cook’s moral character was indelibly shaped by his experiences growing up as a kid in the deep south. Specifically, Cook passion for human rights was forged, in part, by the deep-seated racism that Cook witnessed first-hand while growing up in Alabama in the 1960s and early 1970s.
During a 2013 speech where Cook received the IQLA Lifetime Achievement Award, the Apple CEO spoke openly about witnessing a cross burning first-hand, an event which he said “was permanently imprinted” on his brain and changed his life forever.
“Since these early days,” Cook later articulated, “I have seen and have experienced many types of discrimination and all of them were rooted in the fear of people that were different than the majority.”
Interestingly enough, new information relayed by Todd Frankel of The Washington Post claims that Cook as a young boy didn’t just witness the aforementioned cross burning, but actually confronted the KKK members who were engaged in the activity.
In the early 1970s, he was riding his new 10-speed bicycle at night along a rural road just outside Robertsdale when he spotted a burning cross. He pedaled closer.
He saw Klansmen in white hoods and robes. The cross was on the property of a family he knew was black. It was almost more than he could comprehend.
Without thinking, he shouted, “Stop!”
The group turned toward the boy. One of them raised his hood. Cook recognized the man as a local deacon at one of the dozen churches in town, but not the one attended by Cook’s family.
The man warned the boy to keep moving.
Frankel’s full piece is an interesting read and illustrates how Tim Cook’s childhood in Alabama, a place which is no stranger to turbulence, helped make him the man he is today.