7 things to know about James Cox, Ohio’s last governor from Dayton

James M. Cox is the last Ohio governor with ties to the Miami Valley.

As today’s governor’s race heats up, two local candidates, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and Attorney General Mike DeWine have a chance at filling that void in the Ohio Statehouse. 

Cox, who had a long career in politics and journalism, died 60 years ago. To mark the anniversary, here are seven things to know about his political life: 

The Nov. 6, 1912 edition of the Dayton Daily News marks James M. Cox's win as Ohio governor. DAYTON DAILY NEWS ARCHIVE

1. 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. 

2. The political start. Cox began his political career in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1909. As a freshman congressmanm 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. 

The 1920 presidential election pitted two Ohioans - Ohio Gov. James Cox and U.S. Sen. Warren Harding - in an election that Harding won easily. Both were also newspapermen. Cox started his newspaper career in Dayton when he founded the Dayton Daily News.
Photo: Dayton Daily News Archive

3. Club member congratulations. Members of the Dayton Bicycle Club, accompanied by a band, congratulated their fellow member and newly elected governor with a bouquet of chrysanthemums at Cox’ Dayton Daily News office on election night in 1912. “The boys of the Dayton Bicycle Club speak the language of the human heart…,” said Cox, who hoped that two years later “the Dayton Bicycle Club will be as proud of their governor as I am of our organization.”

Cox is sworn in for his first term as governor. DAYTON DAILY NEWS

4. Christmas compassion. During World War I, Cox organized a program to bring Christmas to soldiers stationed in the U.S. Army’s 37th division in Montgomery, Ala. Family members sent packages to Ohio, where they were loaded on a train in Cincinnati. The governor accompanied the train full of gifts to the post to celebrate with the soldiers who could not make it home. 

5. Organizing flood prevention. The Great Flood of 1913 devastated Dayton and other area communities soon after Cox took office. 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. 

With Franklin D. Roosevelt (right) as his running mate, Gov. James M. Cox (left) campaigns in Dayton against fellow Ohioan Warren G. Harding. The election outcome would decide the successor to President Woodrow Wilson. DAYTON DAILY NEWS ARCHIVE
Photo: Dayton Daily News Archive

6. 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 Warren G. Harding, a fellow Ohioan. 

7. What might have been. Cox was re-elected for a third term as governor just days before the World War I ended. A story published in the Dayton Daily News at the time of his death reported the governor said “if he had known the war was to have ended that year, he would not have sought the third term.”

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