JOHN ISAAC COX was born in Blountville, Tennessee. His father died in the Civil War when he was just seven, and he became his mother’s sole source of support from the age of thirteen. Working a variety of jobs, he earned enough money to attend Blountville Academy for two terms, and he later studied law. He was elected Justice of the Peace at the age of twenty-one and Sullivan County Judge ten years later. He then moved to Bristol, where he served as an Alderman and City Attorney. He was also State Revenue Agent. He served in the Tennessee House of Representatives from 1893 to 1895, and in the Tennessee Senate for three terms beginning in 1901. As Speaker of the 54th Assembly, he became governor when James Frazier resigned to fill a vacant seat in the U.S. Senate. The adjournment of the state legislature only three weeks after Cox assumed office meant that his duties were routine, including the performance of ceremonial functions. He failed to win the Democratic Party’s nomination for governor in 1906 but was reelected to the state Senate that same year, as well as in 1908 and 1910. And he served one more term in the state House of Representatives starting in 1913. He then served as Postmaster of Bristol from 1914 until 1922. By 1913 he had retired from his law practice to focus on managing his 600-acre farm near Bristol. He died at the age of ninety and was buried in Bristol.
Carroll, Van West, Ed., Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, Nashville: Tennessee Historical Society, 1998.
The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 40. New York: James T. White & Company.
Past Governors of Tennessee
Philips, Margaret I. The Governors of Tennessee. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing Company, 2001.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 4. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.
White, Robert H. Messages of the Governors of Tennessee, 1899-1907. Nashville: The Tennessee Historical Commission, Vol. 8, 1952.