Cover photo for Dr. Nelson Anthony Cox, Jr.'s Obituary
Dr. Nelson Anthony Cox, Jr. Profile Photo

Dr. Nelson Anthony Cox, Jr.

d. January 25, 2024

Dr. Nelson Anthony Cox Jr., an award-winning research microbiologist who spent his career helping to protect the safety of the nation’s food supply, died on Thursday, January 25, 2024. He was 81 years old. Dr. Cox spent over 50 years as a research microbiologist working with the USDA-Agricultural Research Service, where he was one of the first young scientists hired to the staff of the Russell Research Center in Athens, Ga. Since retiring in 2022, he has split his time between Athens and Cary, North Carolina.

During his career, his brilliant mind, hard work, and scientific creativity resulted in remarkable productivity. He conducted an untold number of research projects, held 10 patents, authored well more than one thousand peer-reviewed scientific publications, and gave hundreds of scientific talks, both nationally and internationally.

His accolades include Distinguished Senior Agricultural Research Science Scientist of the Year, Fellow American Society for Microbiology, Fellow of Poultry Science Association and was one of a very few scientists ever inducted into both the Poultry Hall of Fame and the ARS Science Hall of Fame. He is regarded by colleagues as one of the greatest food safety microbiologists of his generation.

Beyond his scientific accomplishments, Dr. Cox was a larger-than-life figure, who never met a stranger and who usually dominated a room. He could entertain for hours with stories of his native Louisiana’s Cajun country or LSU sports. He was a master cook, and countless friends – even grocery store clerks – would often be gifted with his prized gumbo. Some friends even suggested he consider opening a Cajun restaurant in Athens. But Dr. Cox’s first love was making sure the chicken and other foods consumed by the public were safe for consumption. Because of his expertise, quick wit, folksy delivery, and infectious laugh, he was in great demand at both national and international scientific meetings. He mentored generations of young scientists, helping many go on to distinguished careers. He was devoted to his family and many friends.  He was a natural athlete, made All-State in high school basketball, was a ranked ping pong player in Louisiana and an excellent golf player.

Dr. Cox was born in 1943 in New Orleans but grew up in Napoleonville, Louisiana.  He was the son of a country doctor.  He graduated with three degrees from LSU. He is predeceased by his parents, Dr. Nelson A. Cox Sr. and Alma Josephine Cox. He is survived by his brothers: Judge Ronald Cox (wife Susie) Wayne Cox, and Conrad Cox (wife Terry,) all of Louisiana.  He is also survived by his three children: Mary Beth Morse of Troy, NY; Rachel Bloom of Marietta, GA; and Nelson Cox III of Thomaston, GA, as well as seven grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and many beloved nieces and nephews.  He is also survived by his domestic partner of 30 years, Ms. Kenni Beam of Athens and Cary, North Carolina.

A celebration of life will be held on Saturday, February 3, 2024 at 1:30 P.M. at Lord and Stephens Funeral Home, East Chapel. The family will receive friends beginning at 12:00 P.M. until the time of the service as well as following the celebration of life. Private interment will immediately follow the celebration of life at Oconee Hill Cemetery, Athens, GA.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to: Transitions LifeCare, 250 Hospice Circle, Raleigh, NC 27607.

Lord and Stephens Funeral Home, EAST, Athens, GA is in charge of arrangements.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Dr. Nelson Anthony Cox, Jr., please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Saturday, February 3, 2024

12:00pm - 1:30 am (Eastern time)

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Celebration of Life

Saturday, February 3, 2024

Starts at 1:30 pm (Eastern time)

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


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