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Cohen, John Sanford

COHEN, JOHN SANFORD

COHEN, JOHN SANFORD (1870–1935), publisher, U.S. senator. Cohen of was the scion of an old American family. His father, Phillip Lawrence Cohen (1845–1882), who had surrendered with Lee at Appomattox, was descended from Portuguese Jews who had settled in Savannah, Georgia, in the early 18th century. His mother, Ellen Gobert (Wright) Cohen, was the daughter of Major General Ambrose Ransom Wright, "a distinguished commander in the Confederate army and a lieutenant-governor of Georgia," and Mary Hubbell Savage, "a descendant of Thomas Savage (1594–1627), who came from England and settled in Virginia in 1607."

Cohen received a private education at various prep schools in Virginia and Maryland. After a year at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, he returned to Augusta, where he served a two-year apprenticeship on the Augusta Chronicle, one of the South's oldest and most respected newspapers and long owned by Cohen's maternal grandparents. At 18, he went to Mexico as secretary to Captain William G. Raoul, the builder of the Mexican National Railroad. In 1889, he moved to New York, becoming a reporter on Joseph *Pulitzer'sNew York World. The following year, Cohen returned to Georgia, where he went to work for the Atlanta Journal, a connection he would maintain for the rest of his life.

During President Grover Cleveland's second administration (1893–97), Cohen became Washington correspondent for the Journal and private secretary to Interior Secretary Hoke Smith. On the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in 1898, he sailed to Cuba with the American fleet as a correspondent for the Journal. When the call went out for volunteers, he returned to Georgia and was commissioned as a first lieutenant in the Third Georgia United States Volunteer Infantry. Promoted to major, he went with the army of occupation to Cuba. After the war, Cohen became the Atlanta Journal's man-aging editor; eventually he was named the paper's president. Under his guidance, the Journal became the first newspaper in the South (and the second in the nation) to establish a radio station – wsb, the "Voice of the South," which went on the air from the roof of the Journal Building in March 1922. A visionary, Cohen directed his paper to use wire-service photos as early as 1930.

"The Major," as he was known, was elected Democratic national committeeman for Georgia in 1924. He was reelected to that post in 1928 and 1932. In April 1932, Georgia's senior Senator, William J. Harris, unexpectedly died. Cohen was appointed to replace him until a special election could be held. Cohen, who had been named vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, decided not to run for the remaining four years of his Senate term. He decided that it would be better to put all his political energies into campaigning for Franklin D. Roosevelt. A patron of art, music, and education, Cohen was instrumental in reestablishing the Lee School of Journalism at Washington and Lee University in Virginia.

bibliography:

K.F. Stone, The Congressional Minyan: The Jews of Capitol Hill (2000) 61–62; J. Mellichamp, Senators From Georgia (1976).

[Kurt Stone (2nd ed.)]

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