He was born to Howard Ellis Cox and Anne Crane Delafield Finch Cox in Southampton Hospital in Southampton (village), New York and spent his early years attending Westhampton Beach Elementary School. He is the scion of four old American families, the Finches, the Coxes, the Livingstons, and the Delafields. Cox is named for his grandfather, Judge Edward Ridley Finch, a prominent New York jurist who served as a State court judge from 1915 to 1943 and rose to be the Presiding Justice of the State’s First Department and an Associate Judge on the State’s highest court, the New York Court of Appeals. His father, Howard Ellis Cox, was a decorated World War II aviator and a New York lawyer and Long Island real estate developer.
Cox graduated from Princeton University (the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, class of 1968) and Harvard Law School (class of 1972). After graduating from college, Cox worked with the consumer advocate Ralph Nader as a founder of what came to be called “Nader’s Raiders,” co-authoring The Nader Report on the Federal Trade Commission (Baron Press, 1969) and writing articles and editorials for The New Republic. Upon graduating from law school in 1972, Cox campaigned extensively for the reelection of his father-in-law, President Nixon, and after the election he and his wife traveled to Europe and the Soviet Union, meeting privately with leaders and their families.
Cox subsequently was a lawyer with Cravath, Swaine & Moore in New York. From 1981 to 1983 Cox served in the Reagan Administration as the Senior Vice President and General Counsel of a government corporation, The United States Synthetic Fuels Corporation. In 1983, Cox returned to the practice of law in New York where he has also served in a number of volunteer governmental and non-governmental charitable posts: a founding director of the Student Sponsor Partners (supporting and mentoring inner-city parochial school students, 1985 to present), a Commissioner of the Commission on Judicial Nomination (nominating candidates for New York’s highest court, 1991 to present), Chairman of the New York Council of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (1995 to 2008), Chairman of the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund (1995 to present), a Trustee of the State University of New York (SUNY)(1995 to present) and a director of the New York Institute for Special Education (1994 to present).
As a Trustee, Cox was a founder of SUNY’s Charter School Institute (which authorizes charter schools), of its Community College Committee, of its Institute for Community College Development and of its Task Force on Energy and the Environment. In these capacities he fostered the development of cutting edge policies and programs for K-12 education, teacher training and facilities evaluation and has been a leader in energy and environmental policy making. After the 2006 election, Cox chaired Attorney-Elect Andrew Cuomo’s environmental transition team. In 2007 and 2008, Cox chaired John McCain’s New York campaign. While practicing law, Cox has also served three presidents, and particularly President Nixon, in the international arena.