Businessman A. W. Cox died on September 4, 1964. He was 79 years old.
The Roane County native attended a one-room school through the eighth grade. And, by 17, he was operating his father’s sawmill. After a brief teaching career, he got a part-time job at a store in Clendenin in northern Kanawha County. While working there, Cox decided to make a career of retail sales. He moved to Charleston in 1914, when he was 29, and bought out a downtown department store. It became the first in a chain of 21 A. W. Cox Department Stores in West Virginia, Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky.
In the 1920s, he partnered with Wehrle Geary to found two Charleston landmarks: Their Diamond Department Store opened in 1926 on the site of the former capitol building, and, in 1929, they opened the nearby Daniel Boone Hotel, which became headquarters for out-of-town state legislators and eventually hosted celebrities ranging from Bob Hope to Elvis Presley to Bob Dylan.
A. W. Cox is also remembered as a prominent philanthropist who gave money to several churches and to Morris Harvey College—today’s University of Charleston.