The following discussion investigates the circumstances surrounding the unexpected collapse of the scholarly reputation of Charles Horton Cooley after his death and the subsequent neglect of his sociological heritage against the background of the high esteem in which his work was held during his lifetime. The official sociological position that his sociology possesses inherent theoretical and methodological shortcomings is challenged, and the importance for the discipline of reconstructing his thought as a whole is revealed. The focus in this regard is on two key figures in the history of sociology and philosophy – George Herbert Mead and Talcott Parsons. Major points of their critical evaluations of Cooley’s theoretical sociological contributions and methodological position are examined and found to be guided by the interests of their own scholarly ambitions and the theoretical positions to which they themselves adhered. In order to objectively evaluate Cooley’s original system of sociological thought, a theoretical framework is developed that includes his own theory of emulation, with rivalry and hero-worship highlighted as two forms of emulation particularly relevant for gaining an understanding of the sidelining of his work. The so-called Mead—Cooley controversy at the root of the issue is theorized as having been produced, sustained, and driven not simply through the competition between two scholars with opposing views, but also through the active involvement of the next generation of sociologists as they assume the roles of the successors and guardians of the intellectual heritage of the hero they worship in trying to advance his work.