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Paul V. Coates -- Confidential File, July 9, 1959

July 9, 2009 |  2:00 pm


July 5, 1959: Ira Cockrum is arrested in the death of his grandson.

Confidential File

About a Grandpa Who Killed

Paul CoatesMichael Gary Cockrum, a stocky little kid with blond hair and desert-brown skin, was buried yesterday.

After 14 years of being alive, he was laid to rest in Lancaster Community Cemetery. And all the family was there to pay final respects.

All except his Grandpa Ira, who blasted Michael to eternity with his shotgun last Friday.

Grandpa Ira's in jail.

You probably read in the papers over the week end how deputies picked him up and booked him for murder of Mike and for injuring Mike's brother, George Jr., 10, in a family feud over a $12 electric iron.

I read it, too, but somehow, I forgot about it until I got a call yesterday from the dead boy's father. George Cockrum Sr. phoned me shortly after he, his wife and his three other sons, Georgie Jr., Charles, 9, and Dennis, 4, had left the cemetery.

"About my father killing my son that way," the 44-year-old hod carrier told me, "I'd kind of like to straighten out some of the things that was said."

July 9, 1959, Cover The reports in the papers said that Cockrum, who arrived at the scene minutes after the tragedy, was restrained from attacking his father with a baseball bat.

"What happened," he explained, "was that I did pick up that baseball bat. And I was walking at my papa. But nobody got in my way.

"By myself, I dropped it.

"I knew, before I reached him, that if I hit him, God would punish me."

Cockrum told me that his father was a big, strong man for his 64 years.

'Pa Had a Bad Temper'

"He drank and he had a bad temper," he said. "Pa always had a bad temper. When I was a kid, he used to beat on my mother something awful.

"But he was an awful hard worker, and he paid the bills. My father would be good sometimes. He could be real good, too."

Then George Cockrum talked about his dead son.

July 9, 1959, Vietnam "Michael was a good boy. He wasn't a tall boy. He was stocky, but there was no fat on him.

"Strange," Cockrum recalled, "but my father always did kindly favor Michael. In fact, Michael had been helping him work on his house until just lately, when Michael told me he'd rather not go over there no more. Grandpa was cussing at him too much, he said.

"I told the boy that if he didn't want to, he didn't have to.

"My papa's been worse lately," the dead boy's father continued. "His father -- my grandpa -- died two or three years ago. He grieved over that. Then, two months ago, my mother died. That hit him. Extra hard, I guess, 'cause of the way he treated her.

"It got so he wouldn't listen to any of us. He told me just last month, 'Georgie, if you don't watch out, something's going to happen. It's going to happen to one of your loved ones.'

'I Hope He Finds God'

"I said, 'Papa, you're sick. I'm going to take you to a doctor.' Last week I got an appointment for him. For the 10th of this month. I just got it too late."

July 9, 1959, Accordion Cockrom cleared his throat.

"If anybody was to ask me how I feel about my father, I'd have to say that I feel sorry for him. I hope and pray that he gets down on his knees and finds God. I hope God helps him, because I know he's a sick man.

"I love my father. I loved my boy. He thought a lot of that boy, too.

"Tomorrow," George Cockrum told me, "they'll be bringing him back here to Lancaster for his trial. I haven't seen him, but I hear he's been asking for cigarettes. I'm taking him a few, I guess.

"But what I don't know," he added, "I just don't know why he done me this way."