Dr. Cobb was born in Jones County, North Carolina, February 1st, 1836. He graduated B. A. at the University of North Carolina at the age of eighteen in 1854, and received the Master's degree in 1856. Judson College conferred on him the honorary degree of D. D. in 1889.
After graduating Dr. Cobb taught school until 1857. He then read law with Chief Justice Pearson and located in Greenville, North Carolina, practiced his profession in Pitt, Wayne and Green Counties.
In October, 1869, he left the Episcopal Church, in which he had been a vestryman, and was baptized in Greenville by Rev. Henry Petty. In 1860 he was ordained in Wilson, the ordaining presbytery was composed of Revs. Levi Thorne, J. B. Solomon, Henry Petty, G. W. Keene, W. C. Lacy and J. G. Barelay. Mr. Cobb at once entered actively into the work of the ministry.
At the breaking out of the War Between the States he became Chaplain of the 14th North Carolina Regiment, and afterwards rendered distinguished service from 1862 to the close of the war as Superintendent of Army Colportage.
After the close of the war he and Dr. Hufham edited the Daily Record of Raleigh for six months, and then he became Corresponding Secretary of the Sunday School Board.
Dr. Cobb served the State and his denomination as teacher, editor, newspaper correspondent and historian. In all of these departments he rendered eminent service, but he did his best work as a preacher and pastor. He also did good work on mission fields and in destitute sections.
During his long and successful career as a minister of the gospel he served various churches as pastor, notably Goldsboro, Elizabeth City, Second Church, Portsmouth, Virginia; returning to North Carolina he served as pastor in Shelby, Lincolnton, Lilesville, Rockingham, Fayetteville, Chapel Hill, Waynesville, Morganton, Hickory, Hillsboro, and later Gardners and Sharon, in The Tar River Association. During this protracted period of pastoral work he frequently engaged in teaching and was president of Wayne Institute and Normal College; professor of Latin and Greek in Goldsboro Female College, and was also principal of Lilesville High School. He was for three years, 1879, 1880 and 1881, president of North Carolina Baptist State Convention, and at nine sessions he served the Convention as one of its recording secretaries. For four years he was pastor and secretary of the Board of Missions of the North Carolina State Convention.
Dr. Cobb was from 1865 through 1893 editor of the North Carolina Almanac. He was author of "Reply to Gray's Elegy," "Cold Water," and various other poems which were published in a volume entitled, "Poetical Geography of North Carolina and Other Poems." A distinguished literary gentleman pronounced his "Reply to Gray's Elegy" as fully equal to the "Elegy," and had his children to memorize it, when they memorized the "Elegy."
Dr. Cobb was twice married. His first wife was Miss Martha Louisa Cobb, of Pitt County, whom he married December the 27th, 1859. To them were born twelve children. One of his sons, Professor Collier Cobb, is a distinguished member of the faculty of the University of North Carolina. His second wife was Miss Ann DeLisle Fennell, of Sampson County, to whom he was married September the 3rd, 1891. To them were born three children.
Dr. Cobb lived long and well. He died on the 31st of May, 1905. Dr. Hufham said of him, "No minister in North Carolina has served better the Baptist churches and the people of this State in his day and generation than Needham Cobb, and no man was ever less of a self-seeker. Coming to our denomination from a home of culture, and with the best intellectual equipment that our State or the South afforded in that day, he was peculiarly fitted for the organization of the Baptist churches in our towns, just when the wealth and intelligence of the country was moving into the county seat, and the Lord sent us Needham Cobb for this purpose."
He loved the people of his native State, and was loved by a large circle of his friends.