When Clarence E. Cox, III announced he was running for Sheriff of Clayton County, Georgia, he was flooded with messages from his bus industry friends worried he was leaving the bus business.
Fortunately, he’s not. Cox, President of Georgia Coach Lines, has used his family’s business to support law enforcement’s efforts to help those in need, especially after natural disasters from hurricanes to tornadoes. But as someone who is a public servant at heart, Cox says he couldn’t walk away from an opportunity to use his decades of law enforcement experience to help his community.
“I had a lot of phone calls from people I respect who said, you gotta do this. You really need to be Sheriff, and you’ve got to clean this place up because it’s so corrupt,” Cox said.
If elected, he’ll oversee a 1,500-person county jail and about 300 employees, including deputies and civilian employees.
Previous Sheriff faces prison
After running for the same office in 2016, he figured he wouldn’t run again. In that race, he lost to Victor Hill, who now is facing years in prison after being convicted on federal civil rights charges. Hill, who called himself “The Crime Fighter,” used Batman imagery to promote himself on social media and in campaign ads, according to news reports. Hill’s sentencing was scheduled for Feb. 28. He resigned shortly after his Oct. 26 conviction.
Among the several candidates Cox is facing is Hill’s godson, Levon Allen, who has five years of experience, and is endorsed by Hill, who still remains popular with some in the county. Cox has 38 years of law enforcement service. His platform is “Experience Counts.”
It hasn’t been an easy campaign in a county where voters are polarized. Cox’s signs are being torn down, and he’s facing voter fatigue in a state that has been the battleground for several high-profile elections, such as the governor’s race between Stacey Abrams and Gov. Brian Kemp and the Senate race between Herschel Walker and Sen. Raphael Warnock.
“We’ve had some really hard races, and people are just tired of elections right now,” Cox said.
This race is a special election because Hill had two years left on his term. The election is on March 21 – a day after Cox’s birthday. Early voting starts Feb. 27.
“So if I win, and when I win, we’re going to be dancing in the streets because it’s going to be the best birthday party,” Cox said.
Long list of supporters
Cox has received endorsements from prominent law enforcement colleagues and beyond, including former Atlanta Mayors Andrew Young Jr. and Bill Campbell.
Before taking over the family-owned transportation operation in 2017 from his father and uncle, Cox had a distinguished career in law enforcement. He served as president of the National Organization for Black Law Enforcement Officers (NOBLE) from 2017-18. Even as he has focused on the bus business, his law enforcement colleagues have tapped him for consulting and investigation work.
One of the benefits of being in the bus business is that he can have an affordable campaign bus.
“Everybody’s talking about you got to get out here and be visible,” Cox said. “Herschel Walker, Raphael Warnock, Stacey Abrams, and Gov. Brian Kemp all had buses, and they had these entertainer buses and were traveling around the state. So, I rented one of my buses. I took one of the oldest buses and called Sandie Marquis at Budget Truck and Auto.”
He credits Marquis for the campaign bus wrap that “knocked it out of the park,” said Cox, adding, “The bus has been pretty popular. We’re going all over the county. We’re having town hall meetings on the bus.”
Backing from bus industry
The bus industry has been supportive, and he’s received several donations on his website at electclarencecox.com.
Among the first to donate were Glenn Every, who serves on the United Motorcoach Association Board with Cox, and Jeff Goldwasser, who hosted the weekly Buses & Beer call during the pandemic, on which Clarence and his wife, Wendy, regularly participated. Wayne and Jackie Grice, of Agape Tours in Virginia and members of the African American Motorcoach Council, along with American Bus Association President & CEO Peter Pantuso also donated to the campaign.
“I’ve got some really good friends who’ve donated. I’m grateful for the support that I’ve gotten from the industry,” Cox said.
In addition to being newly elected to the UMA Board, Cox is president of the Georgia Motorcoach Association and the first chair of the African American Motorcoach Council. At this point, he has no plans to step down from any of the organizations.
“I’m going to complete my terms with all of those, and then I’ll reassess, but I’m going to give it all I got while I’m there. I’m not going to leave the industry, though.”
Cox has had a high profile for his work with the nonprofit Caring for Others, which does Convoy of Care. While he has been busy with his campaign, he has remained active with Caring for Others. He most recently organized a Convoy of Care in January to help residents of two counties whose homes were damaged or destroyed by tornadoes.
“We took several tractor-trailers down there to help those people because there were a lot of people displaced and who lost everything that they had,” Cox said.
So how does Cox balance public service, a campaign, his bus industry roles and the family bus business? He’s up early every morning with a long to-do list, sometimes leaving the house at 6:30 a.m. and not returning until 1:30 a.m.
He depends on his family to help with the day-to-day operations of Georgia Coach Lines.