While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


Justin Lien

COX, GEORGE WASHINGTON (1879–1963). George Cox, director of the Texas Department of Public Health (now the Texas Department of Health), was born in Gonzales County, Texas, in 1879. After working on his parents' farm and his brother's ranch, he decided that he wanted to be a doctor, like his father and grandfather before him. He obtained a medical degree from Tulane University in 1906, after studying at Polytechnic College in Fort Worth, the University of Texas, Vanderbilt University, and Northwestern University. In 1907 Cox began his public-service career as a quarantine officer appointed by Governor Thomas M. Campbell to stations in Galveston, Brownsville, and Corpus Christi. After working as assistant surgeon for the Gulf Coast Railroad and practicing privately in Corpus Christi, Ozona, and Del Rio, Cox was appointed to the State Board of Health by Governor James Allred in 1935. The next year he became director of the board.

He was as controversial as he was successful. He was constantly criticized for being so outspoken on health issues, but what he accomplished was significant. During his tenure, he concentrated on pollution, garbage and sewage disposal, and particularly disease control. In this period deaths due to contagious diseases dropped sharply: syphilis by 74 percent; malaria, 99 percent; typhoid fever, 98 percent. In addition, maternal death rates decreased by 84 percent, and infant mortality decreased by 54 percent. Cox also lobbied heavily for the construction of a new State Board of Health headquarters building and twenty-two county health units. When he retired in 1954, due to the lingering problems of insufficient funds and resources, he commented, "I feel I had better take a rest and go fishing." He died on October 29, 1963, leaving one son. Cox was married to Maud French. He was buried at Rosehill Memorial Park in Corpus Christi.

Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Justin Lien, "COX, GEORGE WASHINGTON," accessed August 04, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fcobe.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...