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American National Biography Online Cox, James Middleton (31 Mar. 1870-15 July 1957), newspaper publisher and politician, was born in Jacksonburg, Ohio, the son of Eliza Andrews and Gilbert Cox, farmers. He attended a one-room school until he was sixteen. His parents divorced, and in 1886 Cox moved to nearby Middletown to live with his mother. Cox's brother-in-law John Q. Baker, who published the Middletown Weekly Signal, introduced him to journalism. After an apprenticeship of several years, Cox was hired by the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1892 to cover railroad news. In 1893 he married Mayme Simpson Harding; they had three children, one of whom died in infancy. In 1894 Middletown paper manufacturer Paul J. Sorg was elected to Congress, and he hired Cox as his assistant. With Sorg's help, Cox in 1898 purchased the Dayton Daily News. He introduced modern journalistic techniques into the growing Dayton market. The News became the city's leading afternoon paper and succeeded in driving its afternoon competition out of business in 1905. In that same year Cox purchased the Springfield (Ohio) Daily News. His newspapers prospered, and Cox thus turned to electoral politics. Elected to Congress as a Democrat from the Third Ohio District in 1908, Cox served two terms and became part of the reform coalition transforming national politics. In 1912 he was elected governor of Ohio in a three-way race, in which he won 41.5 percent of the vote. Serving three terms (1913-1914, 1917-1921), he presided over a massive restructuring of Ohio government. His first marriage ended in divorce in 1912, and in 1917 he married Margaretta Blair. They had two children. Under Cox's leadership, Ohio legislators established an Industrial Relations Commission, created a mandatory "no fault" workmen's compensation program, and passed a child labor law. In addition, Cox instituted a civil service system, modernized the state's schools, began building a unified state highway system, allowed home rule charters for cities, and adopted electoral reforms, including the initiative and referendum, recall of elected officials, and a short ballot law. The Ohio reformers dealt with the alcoholic beverage issue with regulations and a state licensing system. Dissatisfied prohibitionists, opponents of the workmen's compensation law, and critics of the other reforms successfully worked to deny Cox reelection in 1914. Cox was victorious over the Republican incumbent governor, Frank B. Willis, in 1916, and in his second term he focused on the nation's involvement in World War I. He created a "war cabinet" that promoted voluntary cooperation between business, labor, and government, and as the war deepened, he implemented federal mandates. Following Cox's reelection to an unprecedented third term in 1918, Ohio legislators ratified the Prohibition and Woman Suffrage amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Cox's ability to win in the Republican stronghold of Ohio when most Democrats were going down to defeat made him a viable candidate for the presidency. The Democratic party was in disarray in the aftermath of World War I. The Republicans won control of Congress in the 1918 elections, President Woodrow Wilson's stroke left him incapacitated, and the postwar economic and social unrest left political leaders uncertain about policy for the future. Wilson wanted the election of 1920 to serve as a referendum on U.S. entrance into the League of Nations. The Democrats were divided on the League of Nations issue, with some of them supporting a list of reservations to the treaty before Senate ratification. Cox supported the League of Nations but remained silent on the question of amendments to the treaty. The 1920 Democratic convention met in San Francisco in the midst of the post-World War I economic reconstruction and xenophobia. Mired in conflicts, the convention deadlocked over the candidacies of A. Mitchell Palmer, William Gibbs McAdoo, and Cox. Supported by a coalition of delegates from the urban-industrial Northeast and Midwest, Cox also had numerous second choice pledges. He was nominated on the forty-fourth ballot. Before naming Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin Delano Roosevelt as his running mate, Cox gave Charles Murphy of New York's Tammany Hall, a leader of the coalition that nominated him, the right to veto that choice. In contrast to Republican Warren G. Harding, who ran a "front porch" campaign and called for a return to "normalcy," Cox waged an energetic, activist campaign. He traveled 22,000 miles, visited 36 states, and delivered 394 speeches to some 2 million people. In August and September, campaigning in the Midwest and West, Cox focused on domestic concerns. As unemployment and inflation mounted, he proposed lower income taxes and an end to the excess profits tax on business. Instead, he called for a value-added tax of "one or one-and-a-half per cent on going concerns." To end unrest in the workplace, he supported national collective bargaining legislation. Widely perceived as "wet" on the Prohibition issue, Cox pledged to enforce the Volstead Act. To counter ethnic discontent over the Palmer raids and calls for immigration restrictions, the Democrat urged expanded Americanization programs to foster loyalty to the United States. In sum, Cox wanted to shape the postwar reconstruction with an activist federal government. Cox's program failed to capture the imagination of the electorate and aroused the ire of the Wilsonians, who viewed the election as a referendum on the League of Nations. In October, as his campaign train moved east of the Mississippi River, Cox stressed foreign policy issues. Favoring U.S. membership in the League of Nations, he pledged to amend the league treaty to guarantee congressional approval of U.S. military action under the agreement. Responding to these remarks, a concerned Woodrow Wilson told a group of journalists that Article X of the League of Nations Charter was "a specific pledge" to resist aggression. The Democrats were overwhelmingly defeated. Harding won 16,152,200 votes to 9,141,353 for Cox. Socialist Eugene V. Debs, imprisoned in the Atlanta, Georgia, federal penitentiary, received 919,799 votes. The Republicans also gained control of both houses of Congress. "The war," Cox concluded, "brought so many reactions that the landslide was inevitable." Cox never again ran for public office. However, when the 1924 Democratic convention deadlocked, Cox went to New York and helped work out a compromise that led to the nomination of John W. Davis of West Virginia but gave control of the party machinery to its urban wing. A member of the Al Smith wing of the Democratic party, Cox joined the "Stop Roosevelt" effort in 1932, but, unlike many Democratic leaders from the 1920s, he campaigned for Roosevelt and remained loyal to the New Deal, although he turned down several presidential appointments. During the interwar period, Cox broadened his communications empire. In journalism, the Cox chain expanded to include the Miami Daily News (1923), the Canton Daily News (1923), the Atlanta Journal (1939), and the Atlanta Constitution (1950). By the end of the 1930s, Cox communications stretched from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. At the age of seventy-six Cox published his memoir, Journey through My Years (1946). He died at "Trailsend," his home of more than forty years, in Dayton, Ohio. Bibliography Cox's personal papers are at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. His official papers from his time as governor of Ohio are at the Ohio Historical Society in Columbus, Ohio. The most complete study of Cox's life is James E. Cebula, James M. Cox: Journalist and Politician (1985). Hoyt Landon Warner, Progressivism in Ohio: 1897-1917 (1964), is the most detailed account of the reforms Cox implemented as governor. Wesley M. Bagby, The Road to Normalcy: The Presidential Campaign and Election of 1920 (1962), is the most detailed account of the election of 1920. An obituary is in the New York Times, 16 July 1957. James Cebula Citation: James Cebula. "Cox, James Middleton"; http://www.anb.org/articles/06/06-00119.html; American National Biography Online Feb. 2000. Access Date: Copyright (c) 2000 American Council of Learned Societies. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. From American National Biography, published by Oxford University Press, Inc., copyright 2000 American Council of Learned Societies. Further information is available at http://www.anb.org.