William Harold Cox

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William Harold Cox (June 23, 1901 – February 25, 1988) was a United States federal judge.

Born in Indianola, Mississippi, Cox received a B.S. from the University of Mississippi in 1924 and an LL.B. from the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1924. He was in private practice in Jackson, Mississippi from 1924 to 1961.

On June 20, 1961, Cox was nominated by President John F. Kennedy to a new seat on the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi created by 75 Stat. 80. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on June 27, 1961, and received his commission on June 30, 1961.

Cox was known as a segregationist and referred to blacks as "baboons" from the bench.[1] When the United States Justice Department sued to block Mississippi's prosecution of John Hardy, a black resident who was beaten after he attempted to register to vote, Judge Cox denied the Department's motion for a temporary restraining order.[1] The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Judge Cox's decision,[2] and the Supreme Court denied review of the appellate decision.[3]

Judge Cox's most famous case was United States v. Price (1965), the federal government's effort to prosecute suspected individuals involved in the murders of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner. Cox initially dismissed the indictments on all but two of those charged on the grounds that they were not government officials and therefore could not be charged with acting "under color of law." On appeal, Cox's action was reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1966; Cox then presided over a trial that convicted some of those charged. He issued three to ten year sentences for the convictions of first- and second-degree murder. Cox said of his sentences, "They killed one nigger, one Jew, and a white man. I gave them all what I thought they deserved."[4] Goodman and Schwerner were both Jewish.

He served as chief judge from 1962 to 1971, and assumed senior status on October 4, 1982. Cox served in that capacity until his death in 1988 in Jackson, Mississippi.


  1. ^ a b Branch 1988, pp. 508.
  2. ^ "295 F2d 772 United States v. Wood". 
  3. ^ 369 U.S. 850
  4. ^ "Judge William Harold Cox". Retrieved 15 December 2013. 


External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
new seat
Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi
Succeeded by
William Henry Barbour, Jr.