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Ed Cox was born in Washington, D.C., in 1946. Except for his four years in the Navy in the late 1960s, he lived his entire life in and around his native city. He studied for one semester at the University of Maryland under the poets Rudd Fleming and Roderick Jellema.
He was active in a number of public interest organizations such as Common Cause, the Indochina Refugee Action Center, and the National Center for Urban Ethnic Affairs. He was also very involved in the anti-war movement during the war in Vietnam. He was one of the earliest supporters of the Washington Blade and in the 1970s worked with the “Saturday Clinic” of the Washington Free Clinic, which later became part of the Whitman-Walker Clinic.
In addition to his public interest activities, he conducted poetry workshops for senior citizens, first at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church and later at the Roosevelt for Senior Citizens, St. Mary’s Court, and the House of Ruth. He compiled and edited Seeds and Leaves (1977) and Some Lives (1984), two anthologies of his student’s work.
He was the author of Blocks (1972), and Waking (1976). He also published an illustrated children’s book, Little Hill (1981). A long prose poem on his parents “These Two: Ezra and Agnes” (1989) was published in the Washington Review. A series of poems on which he worked for 13 years, Part of, was published posthumously. His collected poems, including the titles mentioned above, were published in 2001. His work has also appeared in several anthologies.
In 1982 he received a poetry fellowship from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities. He also received grants from the PEN American Center and the American Poets Fund of the Academy of American Poets (1987). In 1989, he was awarded the Lyndhurst Prize, a three-year, $110,000 grant that enabled him for the first time to work full time on his poetry and his volunteer activism.
He was employed by the U.S. Association for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees when he died of a stroke in 1992.
Scope and Content Note
The Ed Cox Papers consist mainly of his poetry from the late 1960s until his death in 1992, in both draft and final form, as well as Collected Poems (2001). The papers include a considerable quantity of poetry by his students at the shelters and centers for senior citizens where he taught poetry. In addition, they contain a substantial amount of his correspondence, mostly in the form of carbon copies, from 1969-79 and 1984-92. Also included are two interviews of Ed Cox and discussions of poetry at two of his workshops on audio cassette tapes, and a reel-to-reel audio tape of a WETA station broadcast. A manuscript for another book, Staying on Together: Older People and Independent Living, remains in draft form. The draft for a book of poetry by the Washington, D.C., poet Ron Morgan is among the papers.
Laura Cox Lunford donated her brother’s papers to American University Library in December 2003.