Fred Rider Cotten, businessman and local historian, the son of J. T. and Sarah Ida (Rider) Cotten, was born on June 21, 1894, in Weatherford, Texas. After graduating from Weatherford High School he attended the University of Texas, where he was managing editor of the Daily Texan. He graduated from UT and remained in Austin to study law, then took a job as a legal aid in the Department of Justice in Washington. Among his first assignments was an investigation of the German torpedoing of the British luxury liner Lusitania in 1915.
When his father died, Cotten abandoned his legal career and returned to Weatherford to assume the responsibilities of managing his father's undertaking business and furniture store. He rarely sent out bills, never imposed a carrying charge on his customers, and often accept one-dollar payments from families who drove into town to update their accounts. He refused to sell furniture that he believed was cheaply made and would not last. For years he was the Democratic chairman of Precinct Four in Weatherford. He was city commissioner during the Great Depression and worked diligently to establish a local public works authority. His efforts enabled many persons to find employment during the 1930s and provided the city with newly paved streets. As a city official Cotten borrowed money to help provide facilities the town needed and secured the loans by his personal note. It reportedly took him twenty years to retire the debt he incurred during the depression years.
Cotten's interest in his native town extended to its history as well. Gradually his library grew to include a vast amount of literature on the history of Texas and on the growth of Weatherford and Parker County. In 1962 he was elected president of the Texas State Historical Association. At various other times he held the presidencies of the West Texas Historical Association, the Texas Funeral Directors' Association, the Texas Retail Furniture Dealers' Association, and the Texas Swine Breeders' Association. Cotten died on September 7, 1974, at Harris Hospital in Fort Worth and was buried in Weatherford. He was survived by his wife, Mary (Akard), a son, and a daughter.
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Joe B. Frantz, "In Memoriam: Fred R. Cotten," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 78 (April 1975). Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Clippings, July 1973.
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Cotten, Fred Rider,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 22, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
December 1, 1994