Topics & Collections

small text medium text large text

The Strip District: Father Cox


Reverend James R. Cox
BORN: 7 March 1886.
DIED: 20 March 1951.(11)
BURIED: Calvary Cemetery.(12)

The Coxes Were Methodist: Son--A Priest--Wants Hoover's Job

From The Bulletin Index, 1 September 1932.

Sincere or charlatan? Who is he, what is he, and why?

Short, paunchy, red-faced, peering from behind glittering spectacles, Candidate Cox dislikes having the "religious issue" brought up, considers it petty, trivial. Patiently he explains that the Coxes were Methodist ("My grandfather, Captain John Cox, ran the Pathfinder, first steamboat on the Monongahela"), his mother, Catholic. "I have an old aunt who lives in our convent, and attends Calvary Methodist Church, where Dr. W. W. Duncan used to preach, every Sunday. I have no more ardent supporters than my Protestant relatives."

Candidate Cox attended St. Mary's school, Duquesne University, St. Vincent's Seminary at Latrobe, where he was ordained in 1911. Warned by medicos that his eyesight, poor since childhood, would not last if he continued study at St. Vincent's, he made a vow to Our Lady of Lourdes that if his eyesight were restored, he would spread devotion to her. It was; now each summer he leads a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, is proud of the framed U.S. flag he carried in the 1930 procession.

Was Youngest Priest
Proud also is Father Cox of the fact that he became youngest city priest of oldest St. Patrick's church in 1924, after six years as assistant at Epiphany, two years as chaplain with Base Hospital No. 27, the University of Pittsburgh Unit, at Mongoson, France, four years as chaplain of Mercy Hospital. "Most priests do not get a city parish until they have served eighteen years or more."

Sympathy for labor, the common man, which resulted in his Jobless Party platform points: Federal control of banks to eliminate interest, government ownership of all utilities, conscription of wealth in emergencies, right to call strikes, abolition of yellow dog contracts, was aroused when he worked as newsboy, later, during his Duquesne University summers, as superintendent of the Excelsior Express and Standard Cab Company. They were the first cabs in Pittsburgh, the Atlas two-cylinder, the Alco four. His job: to see that drivers not did not soldier, did not cut meter cables, do business on the side.

"I was a strict boss," he says, "but I insisted that the men be treated square, as human beings. That's why the taxi drivers asked me to represent them during the 1930 strike. I knew a lot of them, and knew about the taxi business. A lot of people wondered why I butted into something I was ignorant of. That answers them."

Shantytown's Favorite Son
Going out to Old St. Patrick's Church, at 17th and Liberty Avenue, you pass the town that placed Reverend James R. Cox in the political limelight--Shantytown. Occupying almost a city block, row on row of closely packed shanties house some 300 unemployed. Old boards, tar paper, burlap, are neatly carpentered. A sign, "Landscape architect," decorates one shanty, touches the scene with faint irony. Here Father Cox was made Honorary Mayor last year, a job that pointed him, through relief fame, leadership of the March of the Jobless to Washington, his Blue Shirt followers fondly believe, straight to the Presidency on the Jobless Party ticket.

Candidate Cox bounced into prominence when he led 25,000 unemployed to Washington to present his "petition of the Unemployed" to House and Senate. There he was introduced to President Hoover. Commented he: "While I, out of respect to the Chief Executive of the nation, did not comment then, I can say now that his plans for relief are utterly inadequate."

Police Played Telegram
Claims candidate Cox: although only 3,000 attended the St. Louis convention, there were 250,000 proxies voted. Many who would have attended hadn't the money--every delegate was adjured to have at least $25; others were frightened away by reports of threatened injunctions. "Why, the St. Louis police commissioner even sent himself a telegram saying that 50,000 Communists were coming."

"No Interest on Loans"
Points in Father Cox's platform: Federal control of banking. This will eventually eliminate interest and all taxes. "Interest is a modern conception. If you read history you know that interest used to be despised, called usury." Asked what would be done with banks thus taken from private hands, he answered: "What did they do with the saloon? They weren't compensated. Money is only a medium of exchange. It was never intended to be power."

Expenditure of five billion dollars by the Federal Government in public works. (A Hearst idea.). The money to be issued in currency.

Immediate payment of the soldiers' bonus. "The world war made more millionaires than the world had ever known, while soldiers fought for $1.25 a day."

Cancellation of war debts; but no more foreign loans. Free trade.

Law to prevent anyone being held in contempt of court, except after trial by jury. Old age pensions. Unemployment insurance. Five day week, six hour day. An army, navy and air force mightier than any. Relief for the farmer: no interest will be charged on loans under the Cox regime. Government control of all public utilities.

Is the man sincere? There is no doubt he believes in his economic schemes thoroughly. It is harder to believe that he honestly thinks he will be elected ("The unemployed millions will elect me. There must be either a change or Communism"). Certainly his Blue Shirt organizations think so. Captains and lieutenants sit in the waiting rooms on the second floor of his parish house, plan vote getting enterprises, vent their hatred of "the millionaire," see politicians falling in line as Jobless Partisans show their strength. One tells others that he is a postmaster in his town, "wouldn't be if they knew I was here."

"Who else," they ask each other, "can save the country for us American citizens but him?"


Narrative. Outline. Neighborhoods. Main Menu.