|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from North Carolina's 4th district
January 3, 1985 - January 3, 1987
|Ike Franklin Andrews|
William Wilfred Cobey, Jr.
May 13, 1939
|Residence||Chapel Hill, North Carolina|
|Alma mater||Emory University|
University of Pittsburgh
Cobey was born in Washington, D.C. and reared in the suburb of University Park in Prince George's County, Maryland. His father, William W. Cobey, Sr., was the athletic director for the University of Maryland from 1956 to 1969. Cobey is a graduate of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry. Cobey also earned an M.B.A. in Marketing from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and an M.Ed. from the University of Pittsburgh.
Cobey originally worked as a bank administrative assistant and then as a chemical salesman. In 1968, he became, like his father, an athletic administrator. From 1976 to 1980, he was athletic director at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In the early 1980s, he was the president of his own corporation, Cobey & Associates.
In 1980, Cobey was the Republican nominee for North Carolina Lieutenant Governor. In 1984, he was elected to represent North Carolina's 4th congressional district in the U.S. Congress. However, he was defeated in a bid for re-election in 1986 by the Democrat David Price. After serving in Congress, Cobey joined the administration of North Carolina Governor James G. Martin, first as Deputy Secretary of Transportation and then as Secretary of the Department of Environment, Health and Natural Resources. After serving as town manager of Morrisville, North Carolina, he did government relations consulting for Capitol Link, Inc.
Cobey served two terms (1999-2003) as the voluntary chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party. Under Cobey's leadership, the state party purchased a new headquarters building.
Cobey was one of the leading candidates for the Republican gubernatorial nomination to challenge Democratic Governor Mike Easley in the 2004 election. In July 2003, Cobey received the endorsement of former North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms in the Republican primary contest. Rarely had Helms endorsed any candidate in primaries, other than Ronald W. Reagan for the 1976 presidential nomination. In the July 2004 Republican primary, Cobey ran a strong third with 26.7% of the vote (97,461 votes), lagging behind nominee Patrick Ballantine (30.3% and 110,726 votes) and Richard Vinroot (29.9% and 109,217 votes).
From 2005-2012, Cobey was a presidential-appointee to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Board of Directions, which governs Reagan National and Dulles Airports. He is a former chairman of the board at Trinity School of Durham and Chapel Hill, a former board chairman of the Jesse Helms Foundation, and a former president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA. From 2013-2018, he was chairman of the North Carolina State Board of Education, a board member for the NC Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT), a member of the NC Education Workforce Innovation Commission, and a member of the governor's education cabinet.
Cobey resides in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with his wife, Nancy. They have two children and four grandchildren.