Biography of Whitwell Wentworth Coxe

Whitwell W. Coxe, General Solicitor of the Norfolk and Western Railway, was born in Roanoke on April 24, 1884. Son of Joseph W. Coxe and Mary Keahlofer Syester, he earned his law degree from the University of Virginia in 1907. Coxe began his legal career with the firm Robertson, Hall and Woods, later partnering with prominent Roanoke lawyers. He became General Solicitor in 1936. Active in law and politics, Coxe served as president of the Roanoke and Virginia State Bar Associations and held various public offices. He was married twice and had six children.

General Solicitor of the Norfolk and Western Railway, Whitwell W. Coxe, was born in the City of Roanoke, April 24, 1884, the year of the city’s incorporation, and has there resided ever since. He is the son of the late Joseph W. Coxe, former Comptroller of the Railway, and Mary Kealhofer Syester, a daughter of Judge Andrew K. Syester, of Hagerstown, Maryland, a former Attorney General of that State.

After attending the public schools of Roanoke, Mr. Coxe entered the University of Virginia, from which he received the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws degrees, the latter in 1907. While at the University he was president of the Academic Class of 1905, a charter member of the “Raven Society”, Editor in Chief of the University of Virginia Magazine, Assistant Editor in Chief of “College Topics” (the college newspaper), and a member of Zeta Psi, Lambda Pi (local academic) and Phi Delta Phi (legal) fraternities. During the summers of 1905 and 1906, while still a student at the University, he was, respectively, reporter for and editor of the “Roanoke Evening News” and the “Roanoke Times”. In 1920 he became a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

Upon his graduation from the University in 1907, Mr. Coxe began the general practice of law in Roanoke as an associate in the law firm of Robertson, Hall and Woods (Judge Edward W. Robertson, H. T. Hall and Col. James P. Woods). In 1911 he formed a partnership with C. Francis Cocke, under the firm name of “Coxe and Cocke”. Upon the dissolution of this firm in 1914, Mr. Coxe began a partnership with Col. Woods, later including Joseph H. Chitwood, Frank W. Rogers and State Senator Leonard G. Muse, all of the Roanoke Bar, which continued under the style of Woods, Chitwood, Coxe, Rogers & Muse, until 1930, when Mr. Coxe joined the law department of the Norfolk and Western, becoming General Solicitor in 1936.

From the time of Mr. Coxe’s admission to the Bar his major interests have been the practice of law and the Bars of the State and his native city. He is a former president of the Bar Association of the City, and (1928-29) of the Virginia State Bar Association. He is a former member of the Judicial Council of Virginia and of the Virginia State Board of Law Examiners. During World War I he was chairman of Legal Advisory Board No. 1, Roanoke City. He was president of the Chamber of Commerce of Roanoke in 1944 and is a member of the Shenandoah Club (Roanoke) and the Roanoke Country Club.

Although Mr. Coxe has been actively interested in politics and has managed political campaigns, the only political office for which he ever ran, and to which he was elected, was that of Board of Aldermen of Roanoke City (1916-1917); and in 1933 he was a member of the Virginia Constitutional Convention for the Repeal of the 18th (prohibition) Amendment to the Federal Constitution.

Mr. Coxe is an Episcopalian and a conservative Democrat.

Mr. Coxe has been twice married, first on November 17, 1910, to Emily Noyes Beebe, of Norwich, Connecticut, who died in 1920, and second on September 19, 1925, to Kathleen Hull Kelly, of Bristol, Virginia, a daughter of the late Judge Joseph L. Kelly (former president of the Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia) and Mary (Hull) Kelly. Mr. Coxe is the father of six children: 1. Whitwell Wentworth, Jr., born November 8, 1911. 2. Esther Harwood (Coxe) Wirsing, born June 14, 1913. 3. Harwood Beebe, born July 17, 1914. 4. Joseph Wentworth, born November 15, 1915. 5. Andrew Syester, born August 27, 1918. 6. Kathleen Kelly, born December 16, 1926.


Couper, Wm. (William), History of the Shenandoah Valley, Family and Personal Records, vol. III, New York, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1952.

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