Businessman Artemus Ward Cox (August 18, 1885-September 4, 1964) was born on a farm at Red Knob, Roane County, and named for a well-known American humorist. He completed his eighth-grade education in a one-room country school. At age 17 he operated a sawmill owned by his schoolteacher father. After a few years, ‘‘A. W.,’’ as he was known, passed the state teacher’s examination and began a brief teaching career in Mingo County and later in Clendenin, Kanawha County.
While working part-time in a Clendenin store, A. W. resolved to make retailing his life’s work. He went into business with C. M. Morrison. In 1914, Cox moved to Charleston and bought the George Ort Department Store on Capitol Street. That store became the first in a chain of 21 A. W. Cox stores in West Virginia, Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky. With Wehrle B. Geary, he founded The Diamond, which became one of West Virginia’s finest department stores, and the nearby Daniel Boone Hotel, the city’s foremost hostelry. Both ventures were important in the development of downtown Charleston, and the buildings remain city landmarks today.
A member of several civic organizations, Cox was a generous contributor to numerous small churches and to individuals in need. Two special beneficiaries were St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, of which he was a member, and Morris Harvey College. Cox served on the college board of trustees for 24 years and as president of the board from 1943 until his death.
This Article was written by Marshall Buckalew
Last Revised on October 08, 2012