Weekly Local Biography

  Jim Cox

By Rebecca Lomax, Ph.D.

This was the interview that almost didnít happen. He had written a strongly worded letter of complaint about another interview. He knew things about the subject that I didnít report, simply because I didnít know them. The person who had been interviewed didnít talk about them. Then he rethought the whole thing. He is, after all, a radio and television professional. This isnít, after all, investigative journalism. So we sat down and talked quite frankly about journalism and its liabilities. We talked about a columnist who had been threatened because he poked none-too-gentle fun of the current president of the United States. We talked about the dangers of writing about speculation. And we talked about Jim Cox, where he came from and what heís doing in Chiang Mai.
Itís a long journey from Fresno, California in the USA to retirement in Chiang Mai, from a natal family that he can only describe as ďholy rollersĒ. Itís a pejorative term, maybe derisive, and yet to many people it describes a certain zeal among some Christian denominations. All of the things that the other teenagers enjoyed Ė bowling, parties, music, dancing, swimming Ė all of that was ďof the devilĒ and forbidden to Jim. Ironically, despite missing out on all of that, young Jim felt that he had been called to be a minister and went off to Bible college following high school graduation.
But that didnít last long, and he transferred to a nearby junior college. He had no clear focus. He had grown up with a lot of ďthou shall notsĒ but not a lot of goals. He loved to surf, and soon racked up an astounding 45 unexcused absences from class. The surf was up and he was out of there!
But Jim had grown up with other differences, too, not just the separation from the fun his peers were having. He was gay in a family that outright rejected the reality of a gay son. He had an older cousin who was also gay, and who was in a long term, stable relationship. Jim decided to visit him, and ended up living with him in Oklahoma City for a year. And there he not only came out as a young gay man, he began working at a radio station as a disk jockey. He met a lot of interesting people, and radio got into his blood.
He moved to California to try to break into radio there, but Oklahoma City experience didnít exactly qualify him for big time radio in California. He heard there were good jobs in Florida, so he moved to the Miami area. He was young and willing to work at anything while he found the job he wanted in broadcasting. He worked for a hotel, he pumped gas, and he kept on looking. He learned about a radio and television school, and thought that it would be a good idea to get some professional education. So he signed up and was surprised to find himself in production television classes. He loved it. It was fast moving and exciting, and television was developing so fast that nobody could keep up with it. He got a job with a CBS affiliate that later became an NBC owned and operated station. Life was good. And there he stayed for the next forty years.
He married a woman he had met while living in Oklahoma City. She knew he was gay, but they were fond of each other and thought they could work things out. She was Native American, and understood that sometimes you conform to societal expectations to avoid a lot of heartbreak. They had a daughter, and the marriage lasted twenty years. But he wasnít being himself, and she wasnít being herself and they ended up divorcing and becoming good friends. She remarried, and he visits her and her new husband from time to time. Jim remains close to his daughter.
So life went along in south Florida. Jim spent twenty years as a videotape editor, and six or eight years on the live action truck. It was good work, not glamorous but interesting, good work. He loved the sense of camaraderie that developed among the television people in the field. They were, at least superficially, competitors. But when the action was rolling, when there was a murder or robbery or a car wreck or anything else that pulled all of the stations together in the middle of the night or into bad neighborhoods, they took care of each other.
Time went on, and Jim thought about retirement. He visited a friend who had left broadcasting and was working in Bangkok. And so the story goes again. He fell in love with Thailand. His television station merged with another and the new management offered people who were close to retirement age an early retirement package. He was out of there again.
After a stay in Pattaya, he came to Chiang Mai. He found it to be a better-rounded culture, and he was comfortable putting down roots. He spent a few months doing all of the things you have to do when youíve moved half way around the world. Once settled in, he began to look around. He had visited an Expatís Club while in Pattaya, and the idea took hold. This was an opportunity for expats to help other expats, to develop resources and information that could be shared. So he visited the Pattaya clubs several times, talked to folks there and got a little help in organizing the first meeting in Chiang Mai.
Jim does not think of himself as a leader. I beg to differ. He yearns to retire, to get up when he wakes up, to go out when he wants to do so. But, for right now, heís working hard on Chiang Maiís new Expatsí Club. You can meet him at the Chiang Mai Orchid Hotel at 10.30 a.m. every second and fourth Saturday. You can meet a lot of people there. Thanks, Jim.