Alfred Rankin Cox, Jr.
Alfred Rankin Cox, Jr. was born in the Polk County town of Loughman, Florida on December 30, 1912. When his family moved to Trenton, A. R. enrolled in the vocational agriculture program at Trenton High School. When he graduated in 1930 he entered the University of Florida and earned his degree in Agriculture in 1937. A.R. was hired as an agriculture teacher in Weirsdale in 1938 and moved to Reddick High School in 1941, where he taught for a year. After four years of military service during World War II, advancing to the rank of Captain, he returned to Reddick for three more years from 1946 to 1949. During this time he also obtained his master's degree in Agriculture from the University of Florida in 1948.
Because of his outstanding record as a vocational agriculture teacher, A. R. was selected to become the Florida FFA Executive Secretary in 1949. At the time he began this position in Tallahassee, few national FFA honors had been won by Florida members or chapters. But that changed during A.R.'s 15-year tenure as Florida FFA executive secretary. Two national presidents and three national vice presidents were Florida boys. Florida chapters started raking in Gold, Silver and Bronze Emblem awards and won national and regional awards in Farm Safety, Dairy Farming, Soil and Water Management, and other areas. Florida also had one Star Farmer of America and one Southern Region Star Farmer. Former National FFA President Bill Gunter said of Mr. Cox, “ He was never too busy to help one of his boys.”
A. R. started inviting state FFA officers from the Southern Region to the Florida FFA Convention and helped originate the annual Goodwill Tour for state FFA officers. Among his many awards, he received the Honorary State Farmer Degree in 1952 and the Honorary American Farmer Degree in 1959. He also received recognitions from the Florida Wildlife Federation and the Florida Federation of Fairs. But his true reward was giving insight and direction to the young people who came through the FFA ranks and helping them to adopt high standards of integrity, hard work and giving back to others and their community.
A. R. was instrumental in pointing the way for many young people who later ended up in public service leadership positions, including Doyle Conner, Don Fuqua, Pat Thomas and Bill Gunter. He passed away in 2005.