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Lawrence M. Cox, Sr. Papers

Collection ID: MG 38

Scope and Contents

This collection deals primarily with the career of Lawrence M. Cox, Sr. at the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority; the Department of Housing and Urban Development; (HUD); and as a private real estate counselor. These papers document his activities in Washington, D.C. in the early 1930's; in Norfolk from 1940 until 1969; with HUD in 1969 and 1970; and from his home in Suffolk, Norfolk, and Hilton Head Island, in later years. Additionally, this collection contains personal information on his family, retirement, and hobbies. Materials in the archives consist of proposed and enacted legislation at the national and state level; press releases; mailing lists; newsletters; magazines; reports; pamphlets; books; correspondence; newspaper clippings; awards; achievements; resumes; photos; speeches, and various other materials.


  • 1902-2002, undated
  • Other: Date acquired: 09/23/1977



119.40 Linear Feet

Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Before publishing quotations or excerpts from any materials, permission must be obtained from Special Collections and University Archives, and the holder of the copyright, if not Old Dominion University Libraries.

Biographical or Historical Information

Lawrence Morgan Cox, Sr. was born March 12, 1912, in Norfolk, Virginia and he was raised in the Larchmont area of Norfolk. He was the second son of William Roland Cox, Sr. and Maude Belote Cox. He had one brother, William Roland Cox, Jr., and two sisters, Grace and Mary.  In 1942, he married Anne Irving Flippen. They had a son, Lawrence Morgan Cox, Jr. Cox and Flipper divorced in 1950.  In 1951, Cox married Ethel Mae Breeden. Cox had one stepdaughter, Mrs. Diane Fecher of Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Cox attended Maury High School in Norfolk from 1927 to 1931. However, Cox enlisted in the United States Navy in June 1929 just before graduating Maury High School in anticipation of attending the Naval Academy. Unfortunately, Cox did not meet the Naval Academy’s physical requirements. Until his honorable discharge in December 1930, Cox served in the U.S. Navy as an aviator. After returning to graduate from Maury High School in 1931, and with the assistance of his father, Cox obtained a job loading cement with the Lone Star Cement Company in Washington, D.C. In 1934, Cox joined the Public Works Administration Housing Division of the U.S. Government as a messenger and statistician. He was promoted in 1937 to Special Assistant to Jacob Crane, Assistant Administrator of the U.S. Housing Authority, and he served in that position until 1940. During his time in Washington, Cox took undergraduate courses in Public Administration and Business Administration at George Washington University. Cox became Assistant Executive Director of the newly formed Norfolk Housing Authority now known as the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority in 1940. There was regional resistance to the establishment of the Authority but it was overcome by the support of the U.S. Navy who were short of housing, and by the creation of Merrimac Park set aside for U.S. Navy enlisted men and their families. Cox was named Executive Director of the Norfolk Housing Authority on April 1, 1941. In 1942, Cox became a Bomb Reconnaissance Agent with the Virginia Office of Civilian Defense. Cox was instrumental in the formation of the Virginia Association of Housing Authorities, and served as its president from 1942-43.  When Cox was selected to head the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials NAHRO in 1948, he became the youngest man in NAHRO history to hold that position. While leading the NAHRO, Cox helped formulate the policies incorporated in the Housing Act of 1949, a landmark document that called for “a decent home and suitable environment for every American family.” During 1949, Cox spent a great deal of time overseas involved in urban planning and rebuilding. He was a member of the American Delegation to the Economic Commission for Europe's International Conference on Building Documentation held in Geneva, Switzerland. He traveled in six European countries on a special study assignment for the State Department and the Housing and Home Finance Agency which dealt with housing and the rebuilding of cities. He also served as a special consultant to the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany and reviewed planning and rebuilding in five German cities. In 1956 and 1957, Cox served the State Department as part of the International Cooperation Administration's study on housing programs in Peru and as a special consultant to Peru's Presidential Commission on Housing and Land Reform. For his service to the nation of Peru, he was designated Knight Commander of the Order of Merit of Peru by President Prado. Cox participated in the International Seminar on Urban Renewal at The Hague, Netherlands in 1958. He also attended the 24th International Congress of Town Planning at Liege, Belgium that same year. Even while Cox was serving his country internationally, he did not neglect the needs of Norfolk. Cox was the first city official to publicly support a medical school for Norfolk in a 1959 speech to the Norfolk Yacht Club. He reiterated his goal of a medical school for Norfolk during his 1961 speech commemorating the opening of the Medical Tower building, the first of four buildings in the Norfolk Medical Complex. Throughout the 1960's, Cox helped build community support for a medical college in Norfolk, VA. His efforts eventually led to the creation of the Eastern Virginia Medical School EVMS in 1973. During the 1960s, Mr. Cox lectured extensively at graduate seminars and meetings, both at home and abroad. He addressed the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh in 1961. In 1962, he spent a month lecturing at the Graduate School of Ekistics, Athens Technical Institute in Athens, Greece. Also in 1962, Cox lectured at the International School of Social Studies at The Hague, Netherlands. Cox was also a guest speaker at the American Bar Association's 88th Annual Meeting in Miami, Florida 1965, the University of Cincinnati’s Graduate School of Architecture 1967, and the University of Virginia's Graduate School of Planning 1968. Cox continued his role as Executive Director of the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority NRHA until his appointment as Assistant Secretary for Renewal and Housing Assistance of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1969.  He was appointed by President Richard Nixon, and only served in this position until 1970. During this time, he continued as a consultant to urban development, planning, and housing bodies at the federal, state, and local levels. Cox resigned as Assistant Secretary for Renewal and Housing Assistance in July 1970, amid rumors of misused funds. The allegations were investigated, but Cox was never charged with any wrongdoing.  Cox steadfastly denied that his resignation had anything to do with the rumors.  He cited business concerns for his failing land development corporation in Nansemond County as his reason for leaving. More legal troubles ensued in 1973 when Cox was brought before a Grand Jury for keeping interests in private enterprises while working for public interests during his time with NRHA. Between 1964 and 1985, Cox was an owner of two successful real estate development firms, one of these being Suffolk’s Cedar Point, a residential and golf community. However, the Grand Jury found no criminal misconduct by Cox, but did scold Cox for a breach of ethics. In 1973, Lawrence Cox was appointed Counselor to the U.S. Conference of Mayors for policy and legislative matters; and from 1976 to 1982, he served on the Board of Commissioners of the Virginia Housing Development Authority. Cox also remained actively involved in real estate development from 1964 until the late 1980s. In 1990, the Medical College of Hampton Roads and Eastern Virginia Medical School awarded Cox the degree of Doctor of Human Letters, honoris causa. In the early 1990's, he and his wife moved to the Hilton Head Island Retirement Community. After his retirement, Cox had the opportunity to pursue leisure activities. Cox was an avid golfer and a fisherman.  He was interested in history and involved in the Sons of the American Revolution and the Children of the Confederacy. Cox died on November 7, 2002 on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.

Note written by Special Collections Staff

Language of Materials



Served as the Executive Director of the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority (NRHA) from 1941-1969 and, thereafter, as Assistant Secretary for Renewal and Housing Assistance in the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) during Nixon’s administration. Collection chiefly consists of the records accumulated during his service with the NRHA and HUD.

Arrangement Note

The collection is organized into eight series: Series I: Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority; Series II: Housing and Urban Development; Series III: Consulting; Series IV: Personal; Series V: Photographs; Series VI: Maps and Blueprints; Series VII: Artifacts; and Series VII: Multimedia.

Source of Acquisition

Lawrence M. Cox, Sr.

Method of Acquisition

Gift. Accession #A77-71

Accruals and Additions

Additional accession donated by Cox in May 1998 and further accesssions by Marvin W. Lee, Sr. in October 2003 and April, 2009.

Related Materials

Mason C. Andrews Papers (MG 62), Paul Caplan Papers (MG 78)

Processing Information

The collection was further processed by Mona Farrow from January-March 2017.

A Guide to the Lawrence M. Cox, Sr. Papers
Mel Frizzell, Tonia Graves, Jan Halecki, Kathleen Smith, Sonia Yaco, Mona Farrow
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Revision Statements

  • 03/17/2017: The finding aid was revised and updated by Mona Farrow from January-March 2017.

Repository Details

Part of the ODU Community Collections Repository

3000 Perry Library
4427 Hampton Blvd.
Norfolk VA 23529 US