By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer
MIDDLETOWN - As an amateur boxer during the early 1950s, Louie F. Cox never ran from or lost a fight.
In 19 years as president of the Middletown branch of the NAACP, he was equally fearless in fighting for social and economic justice for African-Americans.
But on Monday, Mr. Cox succumbed to a formidable opponent - lung cancer - at the age of 69.
Mr. Cox's civil and human rights legacy will not soon be forgotten in the steel-mill town of 51,605. Friends and family described him as "a proud man," "tireless warrior" and "a pillar of strength and dignity" who was held in high regard both locally and nationally.
His death left those who knew him to remember how he helped change the racial attitudes of an entire city and improve the quality of life for the disenfranchised. Many said it was only fitting that Mr. Cox died during Black History Month.
"We have lost a type of leader that we may not see again in our lifetime," said Bishop Rudolph Pringle, a lifelong friend and pastor of Apostolic Faith Church in Dayton, Ohio. "By that I mean a consistent and persistent warrior committed to the cause of human rights. One that was respected by both friend and foe."
Mr. Cox served as head of the Middletown branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People since 1985. He remained active with the organization even after suffering a stroke in 2002 that paralyzed one side of his body and slurred his speech.
Over the years, Mr. Cox responded to thousands of complaints from residents, from racial profiling to housing and employment discrimination. In 1970, he led a six-month boycott of downtown Middletown stores after dozens of black residents were denied jobs.
Mr. Cox pushed for more black teachers and diversity training in the Middletown City Schools. He spearheaded a successful effort to rename Roosevelt Boulevard - one of the city's main thoroughfares - Martin Luther King Jr. Way.
Mr. Cox fought for equal rights and treatment of African-American employees at Armco Steel (now AK Steel) - one of the city's largest employers. He also founded the AK Steel African-American Scholarship program.
Elmon Prier, an educator, minister and freelance writer for the Middletown Journal, called Mr. Cox "a giant" who was the foundation of the civil rights movement in Middletown.
During a 2001 interview with Prier, Mr. Cox said he would like to be remembered as "a family man" who sees himself "as being just a plain ordinary citizen with an extraordinary zeal to use my talents to make the community and everything around me better."
"Louie never spoke a word about what he did to help others," said Lawrence Aldridge Sr., an NAACP executive board member and longtime friend. "Louie helped thousands of people and never bragged about what he did."
James Ewers, a friend and administrator at Miami University-Middletown added: "He was one that did not follow a path, but he blazed a trail. He spent his entire life giving back to this community and making this community better and stronger."
Mr. Cox was born on Oct. 12, 1934, in Dothan, Ala. He graduated from Middletown High School in 1952 and briefly attended Miami University in Oxford.
He was a member of United Missionary Baptist Church in Middletown and was an Armco Steel retiree. He served on numerous community and social action boards, including the Council for Human Dignity, Armco Union/Management Civil Rights Committee, Madison Boosters Club and the Middletown Community Center Boxing Club.
He is survived by his wife, Carlene, and three children, Anthony Cox and Angela Cox, both of Middletown, and Brenda Silva of Finneytown. Funeral arrangements are being handled by Hall, Jordan and Pretty Funeral Home and are pending.
The second annual Louie F. Cox Scholarship Banquet/Freedom Fund Dinner will be held at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Manchester Inn Banquet and Conference Center.
"I used to tell him that he'd never give up being the president of the NAACP. It was just in his blood," said Angela Cox, his daughter. "He was still trying to offer his services even on his sickbed."
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