Things to know about James Cox, the founder of the Dayton Daily News

Credit: FILE

Credit: FILE

James M. Cox, founder of the Dayton Daily News, was a renaissance man in Ohio with roles as journalist, publisher, politician, community servant and more.

Here are some things you should know about him.


James Middleton Cox was born March 31, 1870 in Jacksonburg.

Cox (1870-1957) was the 46th and 48th governor of Ohio from 1913-1915 and 1917-1921 after serving as the state’s U.S. Representative from 1909 to 1913. His progressive and reformist policies aided him to the Democratic nomination for the presidency, in which he lost to then-U.S. Senator Warren G. Harding. His running mate was Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Cox bought the Dayton Evening News in August 1898 and promptly renamed it the Dayton Daily News, and from there built Cox Enterprises, a large media enterprise which included the Springfield Press Republic (now the Springfield News Sun), and Atlanta Journal (now the Atlanta Journal-Constitution).

Growing up on the farm

From humble roots, Cox and his six older siblings worked in the fields of their family’s farm in Jacksonburg from sunrise to sunset in the summer. Throughout his life Cox loved the outdoors, saying that “life and hard work in the open had given me health, agility and endurance.”

He was always a book and politics lover

Biographer Roger W. Babson wrote about Cox’ childhood, saying, “the chief recreation was to go down in the evening to Shafer’s store .. .All of the residents remember James as a boy, and several of them remember his characteristics. When he got into Shafer’s store, he would either be discussing with the men political problems, or else would be over in one corner, under the old kerosene lamp, with his head buried in a good book.”

He held a variety of gigs before becoming known as a newspaperman and politician

Before he entered the newspaper business, Cox worked in a variety of trades — as a tutor, a janitor, a newsboy, a printer’s apprentice and as a schoolteacher. But he was always fascinated by the newspaper business, and by age 21 he was spending his summers and Saturdays working in newspaper work at Baker’s paper, the Middletown News-Signal, and for the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Dayton Daily News

In 1898, Cox borrowed $26,000 from friends and family to purchase the Dayton Evening News Publishing Co., and he renamed the newspaper the Dayton Daily News.

The people’s paper

After purchasing the Dayton Evening News (now Dayton Daily News), he added a women’s society editor and increased the Associated Press service to include national, international and sports news. It was Cox’s belief that this was “the people’s paper.”

The political start

Cox began his political career in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1909. As a freshman congressman he wasted no time before stepping on the floor and advocating for the nation’s military homes, which included Dayton’s National Home for Disabled Soldiers, now the Dayton VA Medical Center.

Organizing flood prevention

The Great Flood of 1913 devastated Dayton and other communities soon after Cox took office as Ohio’s governor. Cox toured the flooded districts with a newly appointed flood commission and, in the disaster’s wake, helped fight for a law which created the Miami Conservancy District, the flood prevention agency that protects the region.

Credit: Dayton Daily News Archive

Credit: Dayton Daily News Archive

Three terms

Cox was the first Ohio governor to serve three full terms in office. His first term was from 1913 to 1915. He ran again in 1914 but lost re-election to Frank B. Willis. Cox ran again in 1916, won and was successful again in 1918.



A call to higher office

Cox was tapped as the Democratic candidate for president in 1920. He picked Franklin D. Roosevelt to be his vice-presidential running mate. Cox lost the election to Harding, a fellow Ohioan.

Credit: Dayton Daily News Archive

Credit: Dayton Daily News Archive

Election Day 1920 in Dayton

Cox rolled into Dayton on his “special train” before heading to his voting site where he was met by friends and neighbors and “a battery of camera men.” He reportedly planned to rest at Trailsend, his Kettering home, during the afternoon before receiving the presidential election results at his office at the Dayton Daily News. Published on the front page then next day was the text of the conciliatory telegram Cox sent to his opponent Warren G. Harding.


After many more years of journalism and public service in the community, Cox died on July 15, 1957, in Dayton.