Larry Cox Was A Good And Kind  Man

By John J. Duncan Jr.

Larry Cox was one of my closest friends for more than 40 years. When he passed away on October 18 last year, not only did I lose a close friend, but more importantly, the city of Knoxville lost a great man.

Knox News described him as a “true public servant” and said he “was widely known for his generosity and kindness to everyone he met.”

Mike Steely wrote an article in this newspaper a few months before Larry died and summed up Larry’s life in this way: “He’s been a dynamo of involvement in the city, county, and especially in North Knoxville. His career in athletics and coaching paralleled his many years of service as a city council member and community involvement. As past coach and director of the non-profit Knoxville Falcons, he helped make it possible for thousands of children in Knoxville to have access to learn and play baseball, basketball, football, softball and cheerleading.”

Larry did not lead his life on the sidelines or by simply staring at a screen as so many millions do now.

He had many great loves, but first and foremost was his family: his wife, Brenda; his children, Brooke and Shane; and especially his three grandchildren, Brielle, Kingston and Desire.

He was proud of his 20 years on the Knoxville City Council, and he never lost an election. He had a way of mumbling sometimes that occasionally made him hard to understand. I teased him about that and said he did that on purpose so no one could figure out where he stood on an issue and get mad at him.

But I never heard anyone say a bad word about Larry Cox. In fact, just a few nights ago, a man named Gary Duncan (no relation and someone I had never met before), came up to my wife and me and told us a nice story about Larry.

Mr. Duncan said he used to own a business across from Larry’s on North Central. During a snowstorm several years ago, a city truck pushed a big snow pile in front of his business. He said when he arrived, he found Larry out shoveling snow away from Mr. Duncan’s business.

Larry spent thousands of hours, often 16-hour days, working for the Knoxville Falcons youth organization. Former Vice Mayor Joe Bailey (who would have been a great mayor) said, “Cox did more for Knoxville youth than anyone he could think of.”

Larry also loved his church, the Emerald Avenue United Methodist. He invited me to the very first meeting of the Emerald Youth Foundation in a conference room at Saint Mary’s Hospital, with about 40 or 50 people present. Now, thanks to great work by Larry’s close friend, Steve Diggs, they have about 2,000 at their annual breakfast, and Larry always made sure I was there if I was in town.

Larry was also involved in big ways with the Boys and Girls Club, the Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame, and the North Knoxville Business and Professional Association. He sold me more tickets and ads, by far, than anyone else, sometimes even for civic clubs or groups to which he did not even belong.

He was not all work and no play. Many Sunday afternoons, Larry, along with Alan Carmichael, the late Bill Vaughan, and I would play golf. He asked a friend to play in a Boys Club tournament with us, and the man said he wasn’t very good and that he would probably hit about 100. Larry told him, “You’ll be our A player then.”

Another time he asked me to write a letter to help him be named as Alumnus of the Year for Middle Tennessee State University, from which he had graduated. I wrote a serious letter about all his community activities, but I added a last paragraph about his golf.

It said: “On a side note, Larry is an especially dedicated, but not particularly talented golfer. But if he hits a 10 on a hole, that’s the score he puts down.” He told me later that two members of the board mentioned his golf to him and he believed that helped him be selected for the high honor.

One of his greatest loves was always Fulton High School where he attended and played football. He has always supported everything Fulton has ever done.

Now, a group of his friends has started a Larry Cox Legacy Project for Fulton High School. It will provide facility improvements for athletes that are really much needed in such an older school.

I hope many people will contribute to this project in honor of a wonderful man. The contributions are tax-deductible and checks should be made out to Fulton High School, 2509 North Broadway, Knoxville, TN 37917, with Cox Legacy written on the memo line.

In the Bible, it says Noah was a good man and that he “walked with God.” Larry was a good man, and in all the many things he did for others – especially little children – he, too, walked with God.