San Francisco Activist Dorothy Cox Passes at 87

April 3, 2012  |  

Dorothy Cox was a hardworking woman who never let color barriers stop her from reaching success. The San Francisco Gate reports that she raised her family up in San Francisco in the midst of housing discrimination and de facto segregation in the 1950s and worked under five San Francisco mayors George Moscone to Willie Brown. After years of breaking barriers in public service, she recently passed away at 87 years old in her home of 54 years.

“I don’t ever remember her not smiling,” her son, Jeffrey Cox told the San Francisco Gate. “She was a very positive person.”

Family members noted that the young Cox was “strikingly beautiful” and “outgoing.” She had a singing voice and her family thought she would go into entertainment. But Cox chose to marry her high school sweetheart, Harry Cox. They moved to San Francisco, started Cox Photography and began to document the area’s growing African American community. The two had three children and enjoyed skiing in Lake Tahoe resorts, often standing out as the only African American family.

When the couple divorced in 1965, Cox began working as a bank clerk and attended night school to earn a legal secretary certificate. She was later hired as an assistant to city supervisor Jack Morrison.

1976 was a big year for Cox, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the University of San Francisco and was hired by mayor George Moscone as senior economic development specialist. In her position she advocated for small businesses under four mayors and mentored African Americans in politics and business. When she retired in 2000, then mayor Willie Brown proclaimed her an exemplary citizen and “the embodiment of the city that knows how.”

“She taught me to understand each person for who they really were,” her son said. “to learn what you can expect out of each person.”

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