Thomas R. Cox grew up at Ray’s Mill, GA (now Ray City) and later returned as a resident. He was only educated through the 8th grade, but made a successful career in bookkeeping. In the early 1900s he went to Willacoochee, GA to live with his uncle Gid Gasksins and to work in Gaskin’s general merchandise store as a salesman.
Within a few years Thomas secured a situation as Bookkeeper for the Bank of Willacoochee. The Bank of Willacoochee was chartered in 1900 with $25,000 capital investment. The Cashier of the bank was George F. McCranie, son of Malcolm McCranie who fought in the 1836 Battle of Brushy Creek.
All seemed well until the morning of Thursday, May 4, 1916 when Thomas R. Cox failed to show up for work at the bank. With Cox’s unexplained disappearance Cashier George F. McCranie suspected the worst, and the bank was closed pending an investigation by the state bank examiner.
Over the next two months some details unfolded, not only in local newspapers, but in papers as far away as Honolulu.
May 12, 1916
Bank of Willacoochee
Closed Pending Examination of the Books by Authorities
Willacoochee, Ga., May 9. – The doors of the Bank of Willacoochee of this place were closed Monday and the institution is in the hands of the state bank examiner.
T. R. Cox, who was bookkeeper, has been missing since last Thursday. Soon after his departure, it was reported that George F. McCranie, cashier, discovered that errors had been made in keeping the books, and immediately wired for experts to examin into the affairs of the bank. The examination has continued through yesterday and today.
Later reports say the errors in the books are not as great as reported and that the bank is in good shape.
May 17, 1916
Police Asked to Find Missing Bookkeeper
Police Chief W. M. Mayo was requested to have his men be on the lookout for Thomas R. Cox, former bookkeeper of the Bank of Willacoochee, Ga., who was reported to have embezzled the bank of several thousand dollars.
George F. McCranie, cashier of the institution, called at the police station and told Chief Mayo that the officials of the bank offered a reward of $500 for the former bookkeeper’s arrest.
June 19, 1916
Charged with the embezzlement of $30,000 from the Bank of Willacoochee, Ga., Thomas R. Cox, aged 28, was recently arrested in New York.
May 26 1916
COX CAUGHT IN NEW YORK
New York, May 25, — Thomas R. Cox, Age 28, was arrested here today charged with embezzling $30,000 from the Bank of Willacoochee, of Willacoochee, Ga.
The Bank of Willacoochee, considered one of the soundest financial institutions in that section of the state, was closed May 8th following the disappearance of the Bookkeeper, Thomas R. Cox.
It was at first stated that the shortage amounted to $30,000 but later there were reports that the defalcation was not so great, an error of the adding machine being in part responsible.
Cox’s home was formerly at Ray City, in Berrien County.
May 27, 1916
Coffee Sheriff Holds Thos. Cox in New York
Willacoochee, Ga., May 26. — (Special.) — A telegram was received from Sheriff David Ricketson, of this county, last night stating that Thomas R. Cox, who is charged with wrecking the Bank of Willacoochee, was held by him in New York city and requisition papers have been forwarded to the governor of Georgia for his signature. The state bank examiner is still in charge of the institution and the amount of shortage is not known, though it is estimated at several thousand dollars.
BANK OF WILLACOOCHEE
From the Willacoochee Record.
At a meeting of the stockholders of the Bank of Willacoochee Tuesday, the stockholders present representing 231 of the 250 shares of the bank, voted unanimously in favor of an assessment sufficient to bring the impaired capital stock up to its par value and resume business.
This will make the institution as sound as it ever was. Besides a plan has been proposed by depositors are to be insured and new officers for the institution will be elected if the plan of reorganization is successful. It is understood that the present depositors will co-operate with the stockholders for the payment of their claims as it will assure the reorganization and at the same time protect themselves as depositors.
Despite all the reported allegations of embezzlement by Thomas R. Cox, the available newspapers never reported that the Bank Examiners had any findings against him or that he was ever charged with any crime. He later worked as a book keeper in Ray City, GA.