Cook is the son of Donald and Geraldine Cook. He grew up in Baldwin County and graduated from Robertsdale High School. He studied industrial engineering at Auburn University, completing his bachelor of science in 1982. He went to work for IBM. He completed a master's in business administration at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business in 1988 and rose at IBM to director of North American fulfillment by 1994. After leaving the company he was hired as chief operating officer of the computer reseller division of Intelligent Electronics, then briefly joined Compaq as vice president for corporate materials in 1997.
Steve Jobs recruited Cook to Apple, then a struggling personal computer company, in 1998. He was named senior vice president for worldwide operations. He worked to streamline the company's production by moving away from in-house to contract manufacturing. He also negotiated long-term procurement deals for components such as flash memory that held down costs and sometimes made it hard for competitors to meet production goals. Those moves proved critical as the introduction of new consumer products like the iPod, iPhone and iPad generated enormous consumer demand. Over the next 13 years the company's revenues climbed from less than $6 billion when Cook joined to more than $100 billion.
Cook was promoted to lead operations in January 2007 and stepped in for Jobs as CEO during a leave of absence in 2009. As Jobs' health continued to decline, Cook assumed day-to-day operations. He formally assumed duties as CEO on August 24, 2011. Jobs, still chairman of the company's board of directors, died from pancreatic cancer that October. Amid slowing growth, Cook made significant changes to senior executive roles in October 2012. He has championed the company's commitments to environmental sustainability in product design and operations, and has opposed calls by governments to require "backdoor" access to personal devices.
Cook has also been outspoken in defending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program created by President Obama after Congress' repeated failures to address immigration reform. He also advocated for protections for LGBT persons. In October 2014 Cook was inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor, and used the occasion to call on his home state to do more to promote equality and establish legal protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Cook affirmed his own homosexuality days later in an interview with Bloomberg Business.
In March 2015 Cook discussed his plan to give his entire personal financial portfolio, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, to charity. Cook has been honored as "Person of the Year" by Financial Times in 2014. He was presented with the "Ripple of Change Award" by the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights and the "Visibility Award" from the Human Rights Campaign in 2015. That same year, Fortune named him the "World's Greatest Leader". Cook accepted the Human Rights Award from the Birmingham Metro Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Birmingham in April 2018.
- Henderson, Jerry (August 25, 2011) "[http://www.thewareaglereader.com/2011/08/portrait-of-new-apple-ceo-tim-cook-as-a-young-auburn-student/#.VEGJW-fOSDo Portrait of Apple CEO Tim Cook as a Young Auburn Student[" The War Eagle Reader
- "Apple’s Tim Cook Calls on Alabama to Protect Gay Rights." (October 27, 2014) Associated Press/The New York Times
- Neate, Rupert (March 27, 2015) "Tim Cook plans to donate $800m fortune to charity before he dies." The Guardian
- Beahm, Anna (April 4, 2018) "Apple CEO Tim Cook honored with Human Rights award at Keeper of the Dream banquet." The Birmingham News