Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Jacob D. Cox, Jr. (1869–1877): Secretary of the Interior

Jacob Dolson Cox was born in 1828 in Montreal, Canada. He studied the law and then entered the seminary at Oberlin Collegiate Institute (now Oberlin College), where he received a bachelor’s degree in 1851 and a master’s degree in 1854.

Beginning in 1851, Cox served as a superintendent of Warren public schools before establishing a law practice. He joined the Republican Party in 1854, was a delegate to Ohio’s state convention in 1855, and was elected to the Ohio state senate in 1858. During the Civil War, Cox served as a brigadier general of volunteers and was in charge of the enlistment and recruitment of Ohio troops. He saw action at various battles, was ultimately promoted to major general, and led the Twenty-Third Army Corps.

After the war, Cox was elected governor of Ohio and served in that position from 1866 to 1868, when he declined to run for a second term. He then became a professor of law at the University of Cincinnati. Though he refused an offer from President Andrew Johnson to serve as the commissioner of internal revenue, Cox did accept President Ulysses S. Grant’s offer to become secretary of the interior, a post he held from 1869 to 1870.

Resigning his cabinet post due to the slow pace of civil service reform, Cox returned to his law practice before becoming the receiver of the Toledo, Wabash, and Western Railroad. In 1876, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives but served only one term before leaving and becoming the dean of the Cincinnati Law School, where he served from 1881 to 1897. He would also sit as as president of the University of Cincinnati from 1885 to 1889. Jacob Dolson Cox died in 1900.