Cumberland University

Larry Gibbs Cox (Class of 1963)

CUAA President Scott Lawrence ('08, '11) presenting
the Distinguished Alumni Award to Larry Gibbs Cox ('63)

What does Cumberland University mean to you and how do you feel about being recognized as the recipient of the 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award?

Cumberland University has always had a deep feeling in my heart since I started attending as a student in 1961. Cumberland was a small school where you got to know the faculty, professors, and students rather well. In my two years at Cumberland I developed a great friendship and relationship with many of these people. Cumberland was led by an outstanding President in Dr. Ernest Stockton who really cared about your academics and personal lives. The campus life was absolutely great since you knew everybody and socialized with them.

Cumberland was what I was looking for as a young man and I will always cherish those memories. The two year education that I received there helped to guide me through the rest of my college years and the campus life taught me how to gain friendships and treat people for the rest of my life. It also helped me develop a strong work ethic, which I use in my personal and business life today. This is what Cumberland University means to me.

I am totally elated being recognized as the recipient of the 2016 Cumberland University Distinguished Alumni Award. I will try to live up to the standards that this Award bestows and truly represent Cumberland’s tradition and ethics on which it was built.

Do you have any special memories or stories about Cumberland that you would like to share?

I have special memories about Cumberland and will try to share a few. I will always remember my speech teacher, Mr. William Kelton. Mr. Kelton was a very smart professor who could deliver outstanding speeches. I would study on my speech which seemed like forever and then give the speech in his class. He would critique my speech and then give it himself much better than I could. By the end of the semester he had me giving pretty good speeches.

I will always remember eating burgers and fries at Rose’s Drive-In Restaurant; spaghetti at Winfree’s Restaurant; pillow fighting in the dorm; the great intramural sports program on campus; the hobo hat craze; Tommy Burnett’s great speeches; and living off campus on University Avenue at John and Donna Sloan’s house, which was a blast. Ward Adcock and I started a fraternal organization off campus called the “Unified Collegians” which Dean William Dickinson was totally against, but it turned out well in the end. What a great time it was at Cumberland University.

CU President Paul Stumb congratulating Distinguished
Alumni Award Recipient Larry Gibbs Cox ('63)

Tell us about your current and past work experience and how Cumberland may have helped you prepare for success.

After receiving my Bachelor of Science Degree in 1968 from Middle Tennessee State University majoring in Political Science and receiving minors in Business and History, I went to work in management for Consolidated Freightways, a large national freight company. Within a year I went to work for a friend as the manager and a salesman for Homestead Egg Company, a wholesale produce company, located in Knoxville which distributes food supplies in East Tennessee and Southeast Kentucky. After a couple of years I purchased Homestead and still own the company and serve as its President today.

In 1983, I was elected to the Knoxville City Council serving five terms for a total of twenty years. After leaving the City Council I went to work part time as a Field Representative for U.S. Congressman John J. Duncan, Jr. who was born in Lebanon. Congressman Duncan’s father, John, Sr., attended Cumberland University and served as a U.S. Congressman prior to his son being elected. In the same time period I purchased McKenry Produce, a local food distributorship and competitor, where I moved Homestead into their building and gained a larger sales volume in the Knoxville area. Also, I gained control of Chicken City, a retail food outlet, which was going out of business and moved the business into my building where I operated Homestead before purchasing McKenry Produce.  Today, I am still own and help operate Homestead and Chicken City along with serving Congressman Duncan.

I know Cumberland University has played a big part in my life along with my family and others in contributing to my education which led me to be a successful business person.  Cumberland’s staff and faculty in the early 1960s were so dedicated to the students of the university that it would be hard not to be successful if you were paying attention. Sometimes, I was not paying attention, but I retained enough. Thanks for a great two years before graduating in 1963.

What impact do you see Cumberland having?

I see Cumberland University having a great impact in the past, present, and future by offering, especially in Middle Tennessee, a university that is big enough to serve your educational needs, but small enough to know you and not let you get lost in the crowd. Lebanon and Wilson County have always been a religious and family oriented place to live and I truly believe Cumberland’s atmosphere is an extension of these attributes. I see nothing but Cumberland rising from the historic ashes and flying as a Phoenix in the future.