Story from Cathy Cox's hometown newspaper. Sister: She is "the perfect oldest sister, the typical first child, over-achiever, smart, mature, serious!"
By Carolyn Iamon
The (Bainbridge) Post-Searchlight
April 15, 2005
The little girl who grew up living above a funeral home in Bainbridge and playing on the courthouse steps in her nightgown is running for governor of the State of Georgia.
If she wins the race she will be Georgia’s first female governor. But then, Cathy Cox is accustomed to firsts.
She was Decatur County’s first female lawyer, its first female legislator and the first woman to be inducted into the Bainbridge Rotary Club. She is also Georgia’s first woman secretary of state. Governing magazine named her in 2002 as one of the 11 public officials of the year, making her the nation’s first secretary of state to receive that honor.
What factors contributed to the development of such an extraordinary pace setter?
As the oldest of four daughters of Mary and the late Walter Cox, Cathy always demonstrated a strong sense of responsibility and leadership, according to her mother.
Recalling an occasion when her husband, Walter, was to be installed as president of the Georgia Funeral Directors, she and Walter had already traveled to Jekyll Island for the conference. They decided they wanted the four girls to be present for the installation and made arrangements for the girls to be put on a bus in Bainbridge and make the trip to Jekyll Island. The parents contacted funeral directors in towns along the way to check on the girls’ progress. Cathy was 10 or 11 years of age at that time and highly incensed and insulted that her parents were having them met at each stop. She believed she was perfectly capable of handling her sisters and herself on the trip.
One of Cathy’s younger sisters, Glennie Bench, remembers Cathy as a teenager being “the perfect oldest sister, the typical first child, over-achiever, smart, mature, serious—all the things that the rest of us were not!”
However, both Glennie and her mother cite Cathy’s sense of humor and enjoyment of a practical joke.
Glennie gives a couple of examples.
“Cathy’s senior yearbook had a strange picture of a student that no one seemed to know. She had a kooky hat on and was missing one front tooth. Her name was listed as Ima Freak. Of course, it turned out to be Cathy in disguise,” said Glennie.
“She has always been good about remembering birthdays and holidays with a card. Anyone in our family was apt to get a greeting card from her, but the thing we looked forward to was seeing what she had written and glued to the envelope. She would cut pictures from The Post-Searchlight of us or of other people and would write a cartoon bubble quote coming from the mouth with some hilarious statement,” recalls Glennie.
What to be
What did she want to be when she grew up?
Her mother says, if anything, she wanted to be a landscape architect. After high school graduation she completed a two-year associate degree in agriculture at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College and to this day dearly loves to work in the yard and garden whenever she has time.
Politics is in her blood, though.
Her grandfather, E.W. Cox, was mayor of Bainbridge. Her father, Walter Cox, had a record of public service that included city councilman, mayor of Bainbridge and spending 16 years in the state General Assembly. Helping her father in his election campaigns no doubt spurred her developing interest in governmental affairs. Her mother said she also discovered she was very interested in oratorical contests and entered every one she heard about. Working as an intern in Atlanta really clinched her desire to become involved in state government. She dearly loved it from day one, according to her mother.
Cathy also had a love and talent for writing.
While working to obtain a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia, she spent vacations as an intern writing for The Post-Searchlight. Following graduation she went with The Gainesville Times for a couple of years, then came home to work full-time for The Post-Searchlight, writing and doing research on former governor and newspaper publisher, Marvin Griffin, while she saved money to attend law school.
As a student at Mercer University Law School, Cathy distinguished herself as editor of the Law Review and graduated Magna Cum Laude. She practiced law with Hansell & Post in Atlanta for two years, then came back to Bainbridge and joined the firm of Lambert, Floyd and Conger, where she was an excellent lawyer, according to Harold Lambert. He describes her as having enormous ability and talent, a person of very high moral character and ethical behavior.
In the political arena
Cathy’s own political career began in 1992, when she was elected to the state legislature representing Decatur, Seminole, Miller and Early counties.
She began serving her first term in 1993, was elected to a second term, and, during the middle of that term, she left the legislature to begin serving as assistant secretary of state for three years.
She ran for secretary of state and was elected in 1998. She is now serving her second term in that office, where she has once again distinguished herself and the state of Georgia as a national leader, this time in election reform. Georgia is the first state in the union to establish a unified election system in all counties. The electronic voting touch-pad system implemented by Cox’s office has revolutionized voting in the state and become a model for others.
Cathy is herself a model for others, especially for women. She believes it is important for women to assume positions of leadership in politics and that the time for women in politics has come. An article from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution quotes Cox as saying, “The good thing for women in politics is that the meaner and more partisan it gets, the more people are open to the idea that a woman might not play all of those games, and might be more of a consensus builder who will focus more on getting things done than beating people over the head with a partisan agenda.”
She has taken a strong stance on the importance of education.
“So much of what we deal with in the state comes back to education,” she said. “Not only is education important to the economic development of the region and state, but it is important to health care. If we know how to eat well and care for ourselves we will have better health,” she continued.
She also maintains that improving education will have an impact on reducing the crime rate. She reasons “the best crime prevention is having a job.”
When it comes to jobs, Cathy said one of her main priorities as governor will be rural economic development. She recognizes the need to strengthen parts of Georgia other than Atlanta and major cities.
“With technology, a business can be located almost anywhere,” she said.
She sees a need to bring job opportunities to Southwest Georgia and other rural areas of the state, by stressing the quality of life and amenities that are available in the areas away from the traffic and congestion.
Cathy is coming home to downtown Bainbridge to kick off her campaign for governor “in the place and with the people who taught me everything I know about leadership and public service,” said Cox in a recent statement. “I will talk about what Bainbridge and Southwest Georgia mean to me and how growing up here has shaped the vision I have for Georgia. I will address the issues of education, health care and transportation, all critically important to the state,” she promised.
The campaign kickoff will be Tuesday in Willis Park at 4 p.m.