EAA Mourns the Passing of Jack Cox
March 7, 2011 —Justin B. “Jack” Cox, EAA Lifetime 14286, who influenced generations of aviators as the long-time editor-in-chief of EAA Sport Aviation magazine, passed away Sunday, March 6, 2011, at Randolph Hospital in Asheboro, North Carolina.
Over his career at EAA, Jack was known as “the” spokesman for the homebuilt aircraft and sport aviation communities. His articles and features highlighted the remarkable growth and innovation of amateur-built aircraft for three decades, while as an editor he expanded EAA’s scope to include all facets of recreational aviation.
Jack joined the EAA staff in 1970 when he and his wife, Golda, moved from North Carolina to Wisconsin at the invitation of Paul Poberezny. In 1972, Jack was named editor-in-chief of Sport Aviation, a position he held until his retirement in 1999. During his tenure, Golda was his partner on the magazine, as she was in all aspects of his life, serving in the role of managing editor.
“Audrey and I are sad to have lost one of our family,” Paul said. “It seems like only yesterday that we sat together in our home in Hales Corner to discuss Jack coming to work at EAA to help us with our publications. He came to my attention because he published a very nice newsletter, Antique Airways, and I loved his writing. He served aviation very well. He was very respected, and a true gentleman, and we loved him very much. He gave great knowledge to those who love flight and each other.”
Jack was born in Seagrove, North Carolina, in January 1934 and grew up completely enamored with aviation, building model airplanes and reading everything available on aviation. Blessed with adventurous parents, the late Justin Cox and Ruth Cox Garner, he had many airplane rides as a small child. The first one he recalled was in a Ford Tri-Motor at Asheboro in the late 1930s.
After graduating from college and beginning a teaching career, he began taking flight instruction and soloed a J-3 Cub at Air Harbor in Greensboro, North Carolina, in April 1956.
Following a tour of active duty in the U.S. Navy, Jack returned to teaching in North Carolina and met Golda in the summer of 1958. They were married the following December and have been an inseparable team ever since.
Jack and Golda bought their first airplane, a J-3 Cub, in the early 1960s. It would be followed by a succession of light planes, including a Piper Tri Pacer, Aeronca Champ, Luscombe 8A, Bellanca Cruisair, Cessna 150, a Piper Comanche they owned for 35 years and, currently, an Ercoupe 415C. As a private pilot, Jack logged more than 3,350 flying hours in a total of 137 different makes and models of aircraft.
Jack joined EAA in December 1961, and he and Golda attended their first EAA convention at Rockford, Illinois, in 1964. They attended all but two subsequent conventions and have served EAA in a variety of roles at both the local and national levels.
While living in Asheboro in the mid-1960s, Jack and Golda joined what is now EAA Vintage Aircraft Association Chapter 3 and became active participants in its activities, with Jack becoming the newsletter editor in June 1966. It was through their efforts on the newsletter that Jack and Golda came to Paul Poberezny’s attention, and soon they were being drawn into EAA activities on the national level. They received an EAA award for their newsletter, Antique Airways, in 1967, and Jack received an EAA President’s Award in 1968 for his promotion of vintage aircraft. In 1968 he was made a member of the EAA’s antique airplane judging committee at Rockford, and the following year, 1969, he served as chairman of that committee. In that capacity, he led the first effort to formalize judging standards and set up permanent vintage aircraft judging categories for EAA.
In January 1969, Jack and Golda moved to Santee, South Carolina, to join the staff of the newly created Wings and Wheels transportation museum. During that year, Jack researched and wrote the histories of the museum aircraft, wrote tour scripts, designed the museum logo, and coordinated and publicized museum fly-ins and special events.
Late in 1969, Paul invited Jack and Golda to join the EAA staff at Hales Corners, and they began work here in January 1970. For the first two years, Jack served as Paul Poberezny’s administrative assistant, general manager of the EAA offices, chapter director, editor of the Chapter Newsletter, designee director, and editor of the Designee Newsletter.
At the same time, he was managing the day-to-day work that led to the formation of EAA’s Antique/Classic Division (now the EAA Vintage Aircraft Association), which included his new Classic category for post-war aircraft, then the largest unaffiliated entity in aviation. Jack created the Division’s new monthly publication, The Vintage Airplane, and served as its first editor. He also designed the Division’s first logo, which featured the Wright Flyer.
“I have lost a friend who was a very special person within the EAA family,” EAA Chairman Tom Poberezny said. “Jack and Golda were an integral part of the EAA staff since 1970, but Jack was more than an editor; he was the eyes and ears of the membership. He shared stories and information about people and airplanes in a way that few rarely can. His accuracy, attention to detail, and writing style earned him the respect of EAA members as well as the people he wrote about.
Jack’s last feature article, Burt Rutan: An EAA Perspective, will appear in the April 2011 issue of Sport Aviation. “Jack wrote it at my request because only he could tell the story about the innovative work of Burt Rutan, a man he covered for decades,” Tom added. “Jack will be missed.”
Rutan, upon hearing of Jack’s passing, said, “We have lost the greatest sport aviation writer of our time.”
In 1981 Jack and Golda began publishing Sportsman Pilot, a quarterly aviation magazine that again permitted them to travel and meet people of their interests. This publication continued until his passing.
During his aviation writing career, Jack was the recipient of many awards, among them induction into the EAA Vintage Aircraft Association Hall of Fame and the EAA Homebuilder’s Hall of Fame. In 1986 he received a prestigious award from the Aviation/Space Writers Association for his article on the around-the-world flight of the Voyager. Read the story here.
Upon retirement, Jack and Golda returned to Asheboro and remained active in aviation. Jack was a lifetime member of EAA, a member of AOPA, a director of the EAA/VAA Chapter 3, and a member of the Asheboro Airport Authority. He was also a member of the voting panel of the Motorsports Hall of Fame.
Jack is survived by Golda; brother Thomas Cox and his wife Becky of Asheboro; and sister-in-law/brother-in-law, Betsy and Donald Johstono of Macon, Georgia. Also nephews Tom Cox Jr. and his wife, Cindy, of Randleman; Bryan Cox of Asheboro; Don Johstono Jr. of Macon, Georgia; Michael Johstono and his wife, Crystal, of Macon, Georgia; and nieces Cindy Morris and her husband, Tom, of Asheboro; Sharon Bennett and her husband, Mike, of Macon, Georgia; Cathy Stewart and her husband, Steve, of Macon, Georgia; Melissa Grater and her husband, Tim, of Knoxville, Tennessee; and numerous great nieces and nephews.
At Jack’s request, there will be no funeral or memorial services. Memorial donations may be made to the Randolph Cancer Center (P.O. Box 1048, Asheboro, NC 27204) or the Randolph Public Library (Attention: Mae Auman, 201 Worth Street, Asheboro, NC 27203). Jack was a lover of books, especially history. It would be appropriate that he be remembered through the enjoyment of the local library.
EAA members are invited to share memories of Jack with Golda and his many friends here.