Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Attilla Cox (1843-1909)

From the Breckinridge News, July 14, 1909.
   We conclude our stay in Kentucky with a look at the life of Attilla Cox, very likely the only American political figure named after that well-known ancient Germanic despot Attila the Hun (died 453), who pillaged, looted and conquered numerous cities throughout Central and Western Europe. Despite sharing the name "Attilla" with such a fearsome military leader, Attilla Cox was one of the most well-liked and respected men in his section of Kentucky, being remarked as a "man possessed of wonderful ability", as well as a "gentleman of rare intelligence, business sagacity and tact".
   One of the most prominent business leaders in the cities of Owenton and Louisville, Cox was a past President of the Louisville, Henderson and St. Louis Railroad. He earns a place here on the site due to his service in the Kentucky State Senate in the mid-1880s, as well as for his being a delegate to the 1884 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
    A lifelong Kentucky native, Attilla Cox was born in the town of Ghent on August 16, 1843, being the son of James P. and Felicia Obussier Cox. He would attend school in Carroll County and later studied at the Ghent College until the age of thirteen. Left fatherless at the age of thirteen, Cox relocated to Louisville to take work as a clerk in a general store, remaining in that employ until age 18. In 1862 he and his older brother Florian established themselves in Warsaw, Kentucky, where they built up a dry goods business under the firm name F & A. Cox
  After several years in Warsaw, the Cox brothers moved their business to Owenton and were joined by two other brothers, James and Luke. In June 1869 Attilla Cox married to Kate Ware Martin (1850-1919). The couple were wed for nearly forty years and would have three children, Leonard M., Attilla J. (1875-1935) and Katharyne (1881-1907). Of these children Attilla Cox Jr. would follow his father into public service, being a Louisville based attorney and decorated officer during the First World War.

                                                    Attilla Cox as he appeared in the late 1880s.

   Attilla Cox's residency in Owenton saw him find success in merchandising but also banking and railroading. For a time Cox held the position of cashier of the Owenton First National Bank and is also recorded as being the "promoter and owner of stage lines and telephone connecting Owenton and Warsaw with the Short Line railroad." He would enter politics in 1879 when he won a seat in the state Senate and during the 1880-83 session sat on the following committees: Banks and Insurance, Internal Improvements, Railroads and the Sinking Fund.
  Cox would win another term in the Senate in the early 1880s and during that term served as part of the Kentucky delegation to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago that nominated Grover Cleveland for the Presidency. In 1885 Cox removed to Louisville to accept the appointment of Collector of Internal Revenue for Kentucky's 5th district, being named to that post by President Cleveland.
   Cox's tenure as internal revenue collector ended in 1893 when he retired due to the election of Republican Benjamin Harrison to the Presidency. Shortly after leaving office Cox became the primary organizer of the Mechanics Savings Bank and Trust Company, which later merged with the Columbia Finance and Trust Company. He would serve as president of the latter company until his death and was also affiliated with a number of other business concerns, including the directorships of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, the Ohio Falls Car Manufacturing Company, the Mutual Life Insurance Company of Kentucky and the Louisville Gas Company.
   In August of 1892, Attilla Cox began a four-year stint as receiver of the Louisville, St. Louis and Texas Railroad. Upon that company's reorganization in 1896 as the Louisville, Henderson and St. Louis Railway Company Cox was named as its president, continuing in that role until his death thirteen years later.
   Attilla Cox maintained an active role in his community until a few weeks before his death at age 66 on July 7, 1909. His death occurred after an illness of several weeks and was reported by the Cloverport Breckinridge News as having caused "widespread sorrow" throughout Louisville and the neighboring areas. He was survived by his wife Kate, who, following her death in 1917, was interred alongside her husband at the Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville.

From the Kentucky Irish American, June 2, 1900.

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