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Late official accomplished much in life

Hailed a visionary by friends and family

POSTED: March 14, 2012 4:00 a.m.

Dawsonville Mayor Joe Lane Cox will be remembered for dedication to his profession, love for family and commitment to the community.

A man of faith, Cox died Friday at Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville following several years of declining health. He was 72.

"There was no one that loved the people of Dawson County more than Joe Lane. He'd do anything for anybody," said Gordon Pirkle, a lifelong friend and first cousin.

Born July 1, 1939, to the late Wayne and Nellie Cox, Joe Lane Cox was the oldest of nine siblings.

He was raised on Gordon Moss Road, which was named for his grandfather, not far from Dawson Forest Road and what would become Ga. 400.

A 1958 Dawson County High School graduate, Cox during his senior year was selected by his peers as the most handsome, best all-around and most popular.

"There was never a doubt he'd succeed at anything he did," Pirkle said. "He was very athletic, very involved in just about everything."

Cox wed his high school sweetheart, Judy Stephens, on Sept. 5 of the same year and soon started a family. They have three daughters, six grandchildren and a great granddaughter.

After 53 years of marriage, Judy Cox said she continues to hear about her husband's accomplishments as a dedicated family man, public servant and man of God.

"A country boy from Dawsonville with only a high school education did all that he did. He just amazes me still," she said.

After graduation, her husband worked at a local service station before beginning his career as an elected official.

He was elected Probate Judge from 1977 to 1980. He later served as the county's sole commissioner for three terms and as a county government consultant in Lumpkin County. He was serving his third term as Dawsonville mayor at the time of his death.

"Can you believe that?" Judy Cox said Saturday as she visited with family, friends and colleagues who stopped by the funeral home to pay their respects.

Judy Cox said she takes pride in her husband's accomplishments.

"Judge Andy Fuller was here and he told me the way Joe Lane had the court system set up here in Dawson when he was sole commissioner was so ahead of its time," she said.

"He said Hall County court officials came to Dawson to see how we were doing things and to take the ideas back to Hall. That's just amazing and him with only a high school diploma."

After high school, Cox went to work for Gene Gilleland at the Gulf service station in town for nearly 15 years.

At the time, Georgia required automobile safety inspections.

"The state's done away with that now, but he was the first one to be qualified to have your car checked out," Pirkle said. "So he was really in the public eye, a public figure even before people realized it."

As sole commissioner, Cox achieved many accomplishments that paved the way for future growth in the county.

"He came along at a time when we were transitioning from a real rural community," Pirkle said. "He brought zoning into this county, which may not have been proper at that time, but I think that's why this county is so far ahead of other rural counties up here.

"It's on account of him foreseeing this and setting it up before it was too late."

Following his tenure as sole commissioner, Cox spent several years as a consultant for then Lumpkin County Sole Commissioner Charlie Ridley.

"He was just as involved in Lumpkin as he was here in Dawson, but Judy soon got homesick for Dawsonville and they bought the house on Hwy. 9," Pirkle said.

Three years later in 2003, he ran for mayor and defeated incumbent Jimmy Moore.

Pirkle said the city's water and sewer capabilities, downtown sidewalks and Dawsonville Municipal Complex will be reminders that Cox was always thinking about the future of his community.

Mayor Pro Tem James Grogan, who is currently serving in the mayor's absence, said the city council will strive to move forward and learn from Cox's example.

"We know that we are going to miss the leadership that Joe Lane Cox has provided the city. He's been a leader in the community for many years," he said.

"Throughout the state anyone who hears the name of Joe Lane Cox hears about a man who is true to his word and had led the city of Dawsonville forward into the future."

 

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