Daughters of Men
Portraits of African-American Women and Their Fathers
Tiffany Cochran Edwards
Tiffany Cochran Edwards is an anchor-reporter for WXIA-TV (NBC) in Atlanta, Georgia—the flagship station for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. Her father, noted defense attorney Johnnie Cochran, died in 2005.
The Ultimate Protector
My first memories of my dad were when I was four or five and we would just hang out together. I'd ride in the backseat of his car, and I'd go with him to run his errands, such as going to the cleaners or getting his shoes shined. It became a father-daughter ritual between the two of us. For me, it was something to look forward to on Saturdays—we'd get up really early and just spend all day together. Then at the end of the day he'd say, "Let's go to Toys-R-Us!"
My dad basically worked seven days a week, so he was always in his office and that was like my little playground. His secretaries would babysit me, and I would just have the run of the place. I knew what he did was very important because when he would meet with clients they were so grateful to him. I'd ask, "Dad, what did you do for them?" He'd then explain what a lawyer does and how he was very dedicated to making sure they got their measure of justice. So I learned early on that being a lawyer, if you're good, you could really make a difference. Not just in your client's life but in the entire community.
He loved being a father. I think he realized that he was so busy career-wise that he needed to make sure that he spent the same amount of time with his children. During hisbusiest period, the O. J. Simpson trial, I was living in South Carolina. Still, he called me every single day to make sure our lines of communication remained open. He realized that even though he was responsible for making sure he defended Mr. Simpson to the best of his ability, he still had his own life and he had children who were young enough to need their father. He made that a priority, and I'll never forget that.
He always told me that I was competent and special, and that I was destined for great things. He made sure that I felt smart, attractive, and witty. From my early childhood, he gave me a confidence about myself, that I could go out and conquer the world. I had great self-esteem, and fortunately it stayed with me.
My father was probably the most prepared person for any situation. He always anticipated what was coming next, and he made sure that whatever we did, we were prepared. Do your research, do any homework, and just make sure that you stay on top of your profession. He'd say, "Make sure nobody's more prepared than you and you'll succeed." And that's been one of the best pieces of advice. In my field, broadcast journalism, I have to know what's going on, so it all goes into preparation. He loved being successful, and he expected everyone around him to be successful.
After I graduated from college, I got my first job writing commercials at a television station in Augusta. It wasn't exactly what I wanted to do, but they were going to launch a news department, and my boss said, "Oh, you know you'll be right there and you can slide on in. It would be perfect for you." They held auditions—just me and another girl. She wasn't a journalist, but only an actress who thought she might want to do news. I got to see her audition—she went first and I went after—and I thought I was much better. Just being naive, I thought, I'm a shoo-in for this. But I didn't get the job, she got it. I was devastated because I had moved all the way from California and I had a degree. She was only a high school graduate.
I called my dad in tears. I'm not really a crying person, but I was really upset, and I said, "Dad, they hired this woman, she doesn't have a degree, and she doesn't even care about journalism!" He said, "Are you crying?" I said, "Yeah!" "Are you gonna let this knock you down?" he asked. "You're a Cochran!" He told me, "You go in there and you put together a tape and go to the number-one station and get a job there." I was thinking, Is he crazy? At the time I wanted him to say, "Oh, baby, are you okay?" Instead, he said, "Stop crying and do something! You've gotta put those tears into action!"
But you know what? I went to work that night, and I put together a tape. And I tell you, I called the number-one station, and they just happened to have an opening. I started anchoring the weekends. I was twenty-one years old, and I was the youngest anchor they'd ever had. My whole family flew in and watched the TV thinking, God, can you believe she's on TV? He told me, "I'm so proud of you. You stuck to your commitment to do this." He also said, "Sometimes in life the worst thing that ever happens to you turns out to be the best thing." He was right!
The thing I miss most about my dad is our conversations. He was such a good listener and problem-solver. You could have just a little tiny issue that you couldn't find a way out of, and if you talked to him about it he'd give such great advice. I think that that's part of being a lawyer, listening to your clients and really seeing what they need. He was able to communicate in a way that everyone could understand.
My dad had two primary mottoes: "keep the faith" and "expect a miracle." I remember during the Simpson trial, all of these negative things were being said about my father, and "keep the faith" helped him to remember that there's a higher power at work. And "expect a miracle" was the second part of that. If you kept the faith, you could expect a miracle. He believed that things really worked the way God wanted them to. You had to believe in God. Daughters of Men
Portraits of African-American Women and Their Fathers
. Copyright © by Rachel Vassel. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.