About fifteen years ago, while I was still one of the owners of Delta Capital Partners, Inc., we undertook the financing of Spire, Inc. in Atlanta. This was our first project in the Atlanta area, and since it was my responsibility to actually raise the needed capital, it was my lot to go to Atlanta and hopefully meet an entirely new group of private equity investors.
I met with a very talented young man, John Cox, who had conceived the idea for Spire; and between us, we came up with the business plan needed to capitalize the company. When I explained that I would need him to introduce me to wealthy individuals in the Atlanta area, he quickly suggested that I should talk to his Dad. John said his Dad knew everybody in Atlanta and arranged for me to meet them the next morning for breakfast.
I met John and his father, Cary Cox, at a local breakfast joint. As soon as Cary ordered “streak-o-lene”1 , I knew we were going to be great friends, and we were. I moved into Cary’s office in suburban Atlanta and he began to introduce me to no less than a hundred prospective investors for Spire. We soon had the deal done and I continued to come to Atlanta regularly as a board member at Spire.
As I got to know Cary better, it became clear that we shared a great many interest. Cary was a history buff and was very well read. He did not talk about himself very much and, as such, it took a year or two to really understand his background. He had grown up in rural southeast Georgia in a middle class home. Cary was an outstanding high school football player even though he weighed less than 200 pounds.
The President of USC had a different idea and gave them the choice of playing football and finishing the V-12 program, or getting drafted. They became Gamecocks. Cary was elected Captain of the 1943 South Carolina Gamecocks.
Cary completed the V-12 program and was commissioned an Ensign in the U.S. Navy. He served as an Officer on several different LSTs and participated in many of the island invasions of 1944 and 1945. His last ship was hit by a Japanese suicide bomber and sunk. Cary survived and returned to Clemson in the fall of 1945 to finish his degree and complete his football eligibility. Cary was elected captain of the 1946 Clemson Tigers, thus becoming the only man to have captained both Clemson and South Carolina. For many years following his graduation, Cary did the color commentary for the Clemson radio network. He and Coach Howard remained close until Howard’s death in 1996.
After his career in radio and a short stint as director of sports activities in Anderson, South Carolina, Cary joined a regional investment firm and wound up in Atlanta. He was very successful in the investment business and served as the investment banker for the sale of a local chain of independent gas stations to a major oil company. After the sale was completed, Cary left the investment banking business and became the seller’s chief investment officer.
I had the pleasure of watching Cary produce outstanding returns on the funds under his care right up to his retirement. Cary and I became good friends. I depended on him for strategic advice in business and we shared many very personal moments. I was a guest in Cary and his wife Barbara’s home on many occasions and he always made sure we would have streak-o-lene for breakfast. Cary was a good friend and I think about him often and miss him very much.