Hall of Famous Missourians
Pioneer Television Writers
Francis M. Cockrell III and Eustace W. Cockrell
As a Missouri resident, 18 years of age or older, I support the addition of Warrensburg natives, Francis M. Cockrill III (1906-1987) and Eustace W. Cockrell (1909-1972), to the Hall of Famous Missourians for their significant and lasting literary contributions during television’s Golden Age of the 1950s.
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Missouri Writers Francis M. Cockrell and Eustace W. Cockrell
Francis and Eustace grew up in the Cockrell family home at 208 E. Market St. in Warrensburg. Their parents were Judge Ewing and Peachy Williams Cockrell. Judge Cockrell, a Circuit Court judge, was noted for writing an early history of Johnson County. He was also active in state and national politics before moving to New York. Here he worked to promote reforms in the criminal justice system that led to his nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize (1951).
Francis and Eustace’s grandparents were Francis Marion and Anna Ewing Cockrell. F. M. Cockrell was a General during the Civil War and later served as U.S. Senator from Missouri (1875-1905).
It was from these family members that the Cockrell brothers heard tales of lawless times when the James Gang robbed at will and bushwhackers like William Quantrill and his Raiders freely roamed the countryside – tales that fueled their imagination and provided plots for many of the Cockrell stories, screenplays and television episodes.
The two Missourians were prolific contributors of short stories to the major pulp fiction magazines of the 1930s (Blue Book, Argosy and Street and Smith Sports Stories) and the general interest magazines of the 1940s (Collier’s, Saturday Evening Post and Cosmopolitan). In addition, they wrote stories or screenplays for numerous Hollywood movie productions including Fast Company, Tennessee Champ, The Raid and Inferno.
Their most notable contribution, however, was their stories and scripts for early television productions, the quality of which resulted in the 1950s becoming known as the Golden Age of television. Among the many programs for which they wrote were Philco Television Playhouse, The Loretta Young Show, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Man Without a Gun, This Man Dawson, Cheyenne, Naked City, The Outer Limits, The High Chaparral, The FBI, Gunsmoke, Batman and Perry Mason.
One example of the Cockrell influence can be found in their writing for Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Year I of the Hitchcock series is rated as one of the greatest television shows of all time by the Writers Guild of America. Francis Cockrell, his wife Marian Cockrell and Eustace Cockrell contributed a combined 12 episodes of the 39 total shows included in that first year.
It was not just the prolific nature or the quality of their writing that makes Francis Cockrell and Eustace Cockrell significant writers. It was also their personal integrity and the values that undergirded their stories. “Though my father and uncle were surrounded by the major names in the movie and television industry,” relates Elizabeth Coleman, “they remained unaffected. They wrote as they lived – with integrity, with compassion for the frailties of others and with a hopefulness that grows out of second chances. They never lost their Missouri roots.”
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