Alonzo Bettis Cox, teacher and authority on cotton marketing, son of Van Buren and Manerva (Compton) Cox, was born in Hamilton County, Illinois, on April 2, 1884. Ten months later his family moved to a farm in Erath County, Texas. After receiving his A.B. (1911) and M.A. (1914) degrees from the University of Texas, Cox went to the University of Wisconsin, where he earned his doctorate in 1920. In 1938 he received an honorary LL.D. from Abilene Christian College (now Abilene Christian University); he had served as president of ACC in 1911–12.
In 1922, after two years at the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (now Texas A&M University) as chief of the Division of Farm and Ranch Economics in the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station (see AGRICULTURAL EXPERIMENT STATION SYSTEM), Cox was asked to take charge of cotton-marketing research for the United States Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. In 1924–25 he served as an agricultural economist representing the department in Europe.
In 1926 he accepted a position as professor of cotton marketing at the University of Texas. He established the University of Texas Bureau of Business Research in 1927 and served as its director from 1927 to 1942. From 1945 until his retirement in 1957 Cox devoted his time to teaching and research in cotton marketing. In 1947 he organized and became the permanent supervisor of the Cotton Merchandising Research Committee (now the Natural Fibers Information Center at the University of Texas), a unit of the Texas Cotton Research Committee (see TEXAS FOOD AND FIBERS COMMISSION). Under Cox's supervision the committee achieved international prestige as the headquarters of a worldwide program to standardize scientific cotton testing. He also initiated the annual Cotton Merchandizing Clinics, held between 1948 and 1958, that brought together cotton merchants, manufacturers, and researchers to discuss all aspects of cotton production and marketing in Texas. Cox was the organizer and chairman of the Texas Cotton Committee, a policy-making body, in 1927. In 1939 he was a member of the planning committee for the Texas Cotton Research Congress, which held its first meeting in Waco in 1940. In 1942, as chairman of the Foreign Markets Committee of the Texas Statewide Cotton Committee, Cox helped prepare the "Charter for Cotton," which set forth the fundamental economic principles governing the cotton industry and the postwar demands of cotton farmers.
Throughout his professional career Cox served on many state, national, and international committees. In 1939 he was a member of the State Intercollegiate Schools of Business Administration Committee, and in 1941 he was appointed a member of the Social Science Research Council, organized to plan postwar agricultural adjustments in the South. In 1943 he was a member of the Texas Postwar Planning Commission. That year he was a special consultant on cotton-price fixing for the United States government. In 1945 he was appointed a member of a federal committee to study merchandising of cotton and cotton products.
Cox served as an advisor to the National Cotton Council of America and the American Cotton Shippers Association. He was a member of many associations, including the American Farm Economics Association, the Southwestern Political and Social Science Association, and the American Economic Association. He wrote several books and numerous papers and articles. In 1922 he published, with Bonney Youngblood, An Economic Study of a Typical Ranching Area on the Edwards Plateau of Texas. In 1949 he published The Cottonseed Crushing Industry of Texas in its National Setting. He was published frequently in the leading cotton and economic publications in the United States. In 1952 he was selected to write the section on cotton for the Encyclopaedia Britannica. He was invited to address the International Cotton Congress in Prague in 1933 and in Cairo in 1937 and 1951.
Cox married Sue Merle Sheppard in 1911, and they had three children. After his first wife's death he married Irene Shannon Brezeale of Llano, in 1933. Cox was a Democrat and a member of the University Avenue Church of Christ in Austin. He died on December 25, 1968, and was buried in Austin Memorial Park. The A. B. Cox Memorial Library houses Cox's private collection at the Bureau of Business Research, University of Texas at Austin. See also COTTON CULTURE.