The bi-monthly program “The History around Us” at the Reynolds Homestead in Critz, Virginia, will host former “Rocket Boy” Roy Lee Cooke on Wednesday at noon.
Cooke, a founding member of the Big Creek Missile Agency and one of the original Rocket Boys, was portrayed in the film “October Sky.” When Cooke was 13, his father died at the age of 45, after working his entire adult life in the Coalwood, West Virginia, mine. His mother then began working in the school cafeteria to support the two of them.
Cooke later attended Big Creek High School. It was there that Cooke and his friends Jimmy “O’Dell” Carroll, Homer Hickam, Jr., Billy Rose, Sherman Siers and Quentin Wilson formed the Big Creek Missile Agency, deciding they could play a role in the space race.
They began making and launching their own rockets. With the encouragement of one teacher, their efforts were eventually successful. Hickam, in fact, went on to be one of NASA’s first scientists. The other rocket boys went on to successful careers and lives of their own, beating the odds after graduating from Big Creek High School in the dirt-poor Appalachian town of Coalwood.
After graduating high school, Cooke began his college career at Concord College in Athens, West Virginia. He later transferred to the University of Maryland where he earned a degree. He is also a graduate of the American Institute of Banking in Washington, D.C.
Cooke will be speaking about his career and his days in Coalwood. The program is free and open to the public. Attendees are invited to bring a bag lunch and enjoy the presentation.
Following the presentation, the monthly volunteer meeting will be held downstairs. Anyone interested in learning more about opportunities to support the programming and mission of the Reynolds Homestead is invited to attend. Lunch is provided.