By Patricia Sullivan Washington Post Staff Writer Saturday, May 6, 2006
Robert M. Cockrill
Robert M. Cockrill, 82, a native Washingtonian who reveled in sports as he built a career
in government and consulting work, died of respiratory failure April 24 at his home in
Mr. Cockrill ran the manpower utilization programs for several government agencies. He
later was a partner in the former Coopers Lybrand accounting firm and then became
senior executive vice president at the international insurance powerhouse American
International Group. Despite a 50-year career, he was far more invested in family and
personal interests than in work, his family said.
He was a third-generation Washingtonian and grew up on P Street SE. It was a different
time, when a 5-year-old, with 15 pennies clutched in his fist, was allowed to walk alone to
a candy store at Minnesota Avenue and Naylor Road. Young Mr. Cockrill, so excited by
his wealth and purchase, rushed out of the store and into the side of an automobile,
according to a Jan. 27, 1929, article in The Washington Post. The driver, a nurse,
stopped and took the youngster to what was then Casualty Hospital, where he was
treated for a skull fracture and shock. The injury didn't last, but his love of excitement did.
At 12, he hawked the Washington Evening Star at 21st Street and Pennsylvania Avenue,
keeping a third of the 3-cent price.
Mr. Cockrill was a standout second baseman at Western High School (1942) and upon
graduating in 1942 was signed by the Washington Senators. Before he got a chance to
officially play with the team, World War II interceded, and the Army drafted him. He went to
Burma, India and China to protect petroleum pipelines.
After the war, he took a job with the Boston Red Sox organization. Sent to the minor
leagues, he quit and entered Georgetown University on the GI Bill. Mr. Cockrill did not
graduate, but he had enough credits to attend the National Law School. Out of money
before he reached graduation, he took a civil service job and worked for the federal
government for 17 years.
In 1966, he joined Coopers Lybrand as a consultant in federal matters and worked his
way up to partner by the time he retired in 1984. He appreciated the position because it
meant he could always get a table at Duke Zeibert's, a now-defunct restaurant that was
popular with the city's political and business crowds.
Maurice Hank Greenberg, the famous chief executive of AIG, immediately recruited the
retired Mr. Cockrill to revamp operations at the conglomerate. He retired a second time in
1990. Mr. Cockrill also served on the Reagan-era Grace Commission aimed at rooting
out governmental waste.
He was a member of the Touchdown Club, a sports booster organization, and he never
missed a televised Redskins playoff game until his final illness.
A golfer who in his prime had a handicap of five, Mr. Cockrill was on the board of
directors of Washington Golf and Country Club in Arlington. He was an original member
of what became River Bend Golf and Country Club and participated in the design of the
He was a meticulous gardener, and he planted his McLean yard with azaleas and
dogwoods, earning it the family nickname of the Augusta National Golf Course.
He was a member of St. Luke Catholic Church in McLean.
Survivors include his wife of 55 years, Virginia Sturges Frier Cockrill of McLean; five
children, Katherine Topor of Orange, Calif., Michael Cockrill of Brooklyn, N.Y., Ann
Donnelly of Reston, Steve Cockrill of Reston and John Cockrill of Oak Hill; and 11