Brad Cox didn’t grow up in Gonzales but Gonzales certainly grew in him.
A native of Georgia, Cox spent many summers and Christmases during his youth visiting family in Gonzales, and has attended about 30 Come and Take It celebrations during his life.
It was through those visits that Cox not only developed a love and appreciation for the county, but also saw first-hand how his family’s history was woven into the fabric of Gonzales history.
Cox, 49, is two weeks into his role as executive director of the Gonzales Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture. He took over the position vacated by Daisy Scheske Freeman, who resigned last month to take a position with J Bar B Foods in Waelder. Cox previously served for nearly a year-and-half under Freeman as the chamber’s tourism coordinator and administrative assistant.
He doesn’t have to go far to be reminded of his family’s connections to the county. Each workday, he parks his truck close to a commemorative bench that bears his grandfather’s name – Robert “Dink” Boothe.
His grandfather, Robert Boothe, was the Gonzales County clerk from 1947 until he died from a heart attack in 1969.
“We was never defeated (in an election),” Cox said. “He was in the pecan orchard digging post holes (when he died).”
His grandmother, Florence, taught 7th grade English for 30 years.
“As a kid, coming to visit Gonzales, everywhere we would go, my grandmother, she knew everybody. People would come up and say ‘Mrs. Boothe, I had you for English,’ or ‘I miss your husband.’”
So while Cox may not have been here physically day in and day out, he has, to his core, a feeling like he’s a longtime local.
“I have all of this background information, where there is this tie-in for a guy that wasn’t raised here, so I knew everybody – or knew a lot of people,” Cox said.
The Boothe family’s roots in Gonzales County go back to the 1850s. Cox’ great-great-grandparents, George Jefferson Boothe and Mary Ann Jones Boothe, played a critical role in starting the county’s pecan business in 1907.
He also has ties to the Dubose family. John and Margaret Dubose settled in Hamon – about six miles south of Gonzales – in 1840 when Texas was still an independent republic.
His great-grandparents, Oscar and Carrie Dubose, were married at a church in Hamon. That church was later moved – and still stands – in Gonzales’ Pioneer Village.
Moved in 2018
In 2018, Cox and his wife, Lisa, moved to Gonzales in order to help run the family’s two pecan orchards south of the city. They bought and restored an historic home in Gonzales that has since 2019 become part of the annual historic homes tour.
From their arrival, they wanted to become involved in the city. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions slowed that effort. So, when his wife saw the opening at the chamber for the tourism coordinator and administrative assistant, she showed it to Brad.
“I didn’t know if they’d take me or not,” Cox said. “I would love to serve Gonzales in that capacity. Truly, I know a lot more about Gonzales than most people do and probably even some people who grew up here.”
Cox said there are many people in the city with a great deal of historical knowledge – and those are people he hopes to recruit to help the chamber.
“We need those people in the future guiding tours, helping visitors understand our history,” Cox said. “I think we will be able to assemble more of those people in the future.”
Cox that due to the city’s history, the Gonzales Chamber of Commerce is unlike any other in the state.
“That’s something, fortunately, that is never going away,” he said. “We’re always going to have the ‘Come and Take It’ story, first shots for Texas Independence, our men volunteered to fight and die at the Alamo. Those tenets of our history set us apart from pretty much every other community in our state.”
As such, Cox said, the chamber has to be more than a place to get information and maps.
“It’s also where people go to get their history,” he said. “Many of these already know their history and want to be in a place where there is like-minded souls who can share in their own research that they have done … people come to our office as sort of a pilgrimage to Texas freedom.”
Come and Take It
In his new position, Cox will be heading the planning and execution of the 2021 Come and Take It celebration in October.
“That’s almost like a kid’s dream that they don’t even know to dream,” Cox said. “When you’re a kid and you come and see Come and Take It in the late 1970s and you see the parade coming by, you’re not thinking ‘gosh, one day, I just might be the organizer of that entire thing.’
“I feel very honored and privileged. I feel like I’m on a mission from my ancestors.”
Beyond the annual event and expanded historical tourism, Cox hopes to develop agricultural events to draw people to Gonzales. His ideas include creating large-scale poultry and pecan festivals and industry shows, expanded crop planting and labeling – he wants signs by every field to indicate what is growing.
He also hopes to help people looking to relocate to Gonzales given its small-town feel and lifestyle and, yet, its close proximity to big cities like Houston, San Antonio and Austin, as well as beaches.
Another plus Cox sees is the easy public access to both the San Marcos and Guadalupe rivers in the county. He believes this can increase the number of people coming to enjoy paddling activities with kayaks and canoes.
Cox is a 1995 graduate of Baylor University and worked in the broadcasting and professional sales sectors. He is a former sportscaster for Baylor, television producer at KWTX-TV in Waco, and a former sales manager for The Valspar Corporation.