Jun 01, 2012 - Educator schooled scores in music as well
BY TIM STANLEY World Staff Writer
Friday, June 01, 2012
6/1/2012 4:24:18 AM
Whether slipping off to the band room to lead another session of the student jazz ensemble or breaking out his own saxophone at a school assembly, Principal Richard Cox was never shy about showing off his musical side.
Mostly, though, he saved it for after school.
Throughout his nearly 50-year career in education, the distinguished Tulsa Public Schools administrator, who was the principal at Edison and Rogers high schools, moonlighted as a musician and orchestra director.
Cox had actually played jazz professionally for much of his life - longer than he'd been in education.
After playing for USO shows with an Army band during the Korean War, he later toured with Big Band-era icon Claude Thornhill.
Becoming a school administrator meant less time for music, but he managed well enough to squeeze it in, said Allen Cox, his brother and fellow professional musician.
"There were always the nights and weekends," his brother said. "It kept him very busy and his life very full."
James Richard Cox, who among his many annual musical-directing jobs helmed the Starlight Band concert series, the Red Glove Revue and the Miss Oklahoma Pageant orchestra, died May 22. He was 83.
A memorial service was held May 25 at Carbondale Assembly of God under the direction of Freeman Harris Funeral Home.
Cox began his education career in 1953 as a music teacher at Clinton Junior High School before he moved on to Edison two years later.
As Edison's first orchestra and instrumental music director, he directed the school's orchestra and marching band and founded the Screaming Eagles jazz band.
During his three decades at the school, he was promoted to counselor, assistant principal and principal.
In 1988, Cox became the principal at Rogers High School, where he remained for more than a decade.
Throughout his life, he continued in his spare time to play and direct music.
He was the producer and director for the Starlight Band concerts and for 13 years directed the orchestra and musical program for the Miss Oklahoma pageant.
Cox influenced many musicians, including Edison graduate Bruce Fisher, an internationally known conductor, arranger and musician.
Fisher, who played under Cox as a student, said Cox "changed my life in extraordinary ways. The musical artistry and personal integrity I acquired have and will remain with me for the rest of my life."
Vernon Howard, the University of Tulsa's director of jazz studies, also claims Cox as a mentor, adding that he helped him as a young college student to start playing professionally.
Howard said Cox came out earlier this semester to meet and play with his students and brought some of his own arrangements to share.
"We played two of them at our final concert at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame on April 22," he said.
"The students loved playing them, and the audience knew they were a gift from Richard."
A native of Wilburton, Cox held degrees in music education and educational administration from TU.
Allen Cox, who played the alto saxophone to his brother's tenor sax, said the pair cut their musical teeth playing dances during the swing era.
During the Korean War, Richard Cox entertained troops throughout the Far East with the Army's 45th Infantry Division Band.
After the war, he toured with Thornhill's orchestra and over the years shared the stage with such greats as Ella Fitzgerald, Liza Minnelli and Henry Mancini.
Cox, who was still performing in public up until late last year, also played frequently with his brother.
"Sitting there among all the strings during a symphony performance, we used to ask ourselves 'How did two little boys from Wilburton get up here in the middle of all this?' " Allen Cox said.
The successful duo also played together for years in their own jazz sextet.
Richard Cox's survivors include his wife of 56 years, Corrie Cox; three children, Suzanne Gordon, David Cox and Stephen Cox; his brother, Allen Cox; and two grandchildren.
Richard Cox, shown in 1997 performing for a Starlight Band concert at the River Parks Amphitheater, was a longtime Tulsa high school principal who moonlighted as a professional musician and orchestra director. Cox, 83, died May 22. Tulsa World file
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