William J. Cox was the first Rochester native to win an Olympic medal, and he remained the only local medalist until Diann Roffe won silver at the 1992 winter games.
Cox was just 19 years old when he traveled to Paris in 1924 to compete in the Summer Games. He earned a bronze medal running for the United States in the 3,000-meter team race, an event no longer held in the Olympics.
He set numerous records at Edison Tech (then known as the Rochester Shop School), and later enrolled at Penn State, where he starred in cross country and track. He won nine intercollegiate running championships in the mile, two-mile and cross country.
"Amateur athletics is my first love," Cox said in a 1974 interview. "In my running days, there was no greater glory than competing for America in the Olympics. Nowadays, athletes put money above glory. We didn't have the pro track and pro football temptations back in my day, and I'm glad of it."
Cox also launched the city's water safety program in 1929, and worked as a lifeguard at Ontario Beach until he was 76.
His life service wasn't limited to the world of sports.
He enlisted in the US Navy during World War II, serving in the Pacific aboard the USS Hodges. Cox was a longtime member of the Boy Scouts, the American Legion and the Shriners, and volunteered with the Red Cross for more than fifty years.
Cox died in Webster in 1996 at the age of 91.
Each week, we recognize a great sports figure from the Rochester area. See the complete list at RocDocs.com/Athletes. Several readers wrote in to nominate Cox, including Karen Smith Callanan, Tom Burke and David Stokes
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