The James R. Cox Auditorium is named for James Robert Cox, a Knoxville native and longtime UT enthusiast, although he did not attend UT. Cox, who had a twin brother, Fritz, was one of six children of Lee Cox and Margaret Metler Cox and grew up on a farm in North Knox County. He worked as a cashier for the Fountain City Bank most of his 41-year career in banking—interrupted by service with the Army Air Corps in World War II—that ended in 1976 when he retired from First Tennessee Bank.
In 2000, a few months before he died at the age of 93, he made arrangements to make a substantial bequest (over $2 million) to UT, leaving the specific uses of the gift to his sister, Charlotte Musgraves, and her son, James Musgraves, an architect in Marietta, Georgia. Following Cox’s death, UT approached the family about the possibility of $750,000 of the bequest being used for construction of a pipe organ in the then-under-renovation Alumni Memorial Building. The bulk of the bequest was used to establish an endowment in architecture; an additional endowment supported professorships in music, forestry, and biology. Chancellor William Snyder, who also served as house organist for Knoxville’s Tennessee Theatre, was the driving force behind the proposal, which was accepted by the Musgraves. The renovation of the nine-hundred-seat auditorium was completed in January 2003, and a commemoration of the naming of the auditorium was celebrated in September 26, 2003.