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Cox's Grill in Tyler ends roughly 80 year run

With a legacy of over 80 years as a local dining establishment, Cox’s Grill in Tyler closed its doors for the final time on Monday.

The restaurant has been a part of Tyler since the early 1930s with Francis H. Cox founding the eatery, which got its start in downtown Tyler.

With its current location at 706 W. Front St., Cox’s has had a few other locations over the years, including 2613 W. Erwin St. in 1953 and the second floor of the Citizen’s National Bank building in Tyler in 1958.

Amber Garza, who has owned the business since February, said she will miss seeing the customers who have become family.

“Everybody is sad. A lot of them are mad that we’re closing. Our customers are like family. We love our customers,” Garza said. “It’s going to be sad to not see their faces everyday. My favorite memory is the friendships that have come out of it.”

She took over after her aunt, Linda Blackstock, died last November. Blackstock owned the restaurant since 1982. All the workers are family and friends, she said. Garza recalled helping her aunt in the summers since she was 12 years old.

In a 2014 Tyler Morning Telegraph article, Blackstock spoke of the restaurant’s inviting environment.

“We try to make everyone happy with our food, atmosphere and good service,” Blackstock said. “We have lots of regulars here every morning.”

Molly Beard and Stephanie Drennan said the restaurant has the best burgers they’ve had. They added that it’s one of the places they often eat at for their lunch breaks.

“They’re wonderful. We’re really sad to see them close. We usually eat here at least once a week,” Beard said.

Aside from the great food, Amber Greene said she will miss the humble service she receives as a customer at Cox’s.

Garza said Cox’s is a Tyler staple with hundreds of regulars who are known by both their name and food orders.

“Nobody’s a stranger here,” Stacey Hays said.

Carroll and Mollie Bobo, owners of the United Country Bobo Realty, have been patrons for 20 years and visit about three times a week.

“We’re very sad. I (am) going to miss the people. It’s a gathering place,” Mollie Bobo said.

Carroll Bobo compared Cox’s Grill to the television show “Cheers,” and the line in its theme song that says “everybody knows your name.” He said the same is true for Cox’s.

“There’s a lot of regulars that eat here,” Carroll Bobo said.

The decision to close was hard, but it had to be made, Garza said. She said the restaurant is closing due to code updates from the Health Department. The changes would have required them to make many expensive renovations to the kitchen.

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All Saints Episcopal School students thank wounded warriors

The sound of the Patriot Guard Riders’ motorcycles announced the arrival of almost two dozen veterans for a special ceremony on the All Saints Episcopal School campus on Monday.

The school teamed up with the Texas Wounded Warrior Foundation to try to give back to veterans who have given so much.

The veterans were joined this year by their wives on a special four-day trip capped off by the 12th annual Wounded Warrior Golf Pro-Am tournament.

Wounded Warrior Vice Chairman and PGA Pro Steve Braley said there was a sense of renewed invigoration this year as the spouses of the veterans wounded in combat joined them on their trip.

“It’s been a real shot in the arm for enthusiasm,” he said.

Braley said the foundation works to fill in the gaps to assist veterans who have sacrificed for their nation.

“People find it surprising how many needs these (veterans) have that people assume are taken care of,” he said. “What we do is try to fill in the gaps. We provide reprieve from the stress of recovery.”

The ceremony at All Saints helps students learn more about the sacrifices veterans make and lets them show their gratitude.

Congressman Louie Gohmert attended and told students about the funeral of Private Ross McGinnis, of Pennsylvania, who gave his life saving his fellow soldiers, including two from East Texas.

“To our warriors, thank you so much for all you’ve given,” Gohmert said. “It’s more than we should be able to ask, but you heard the call of your country and stepped up.”

Afterward Wounded Warrior Chairman Dick Goetz presented All Saints Head of School Mike Cobb with a plaque commemorating the school’s commitment to the foundation.

“We have a board that is enthusiastic about the American expression’freedom isn’t free’” Braley said.

Further illustrating that point was Sgt. Bryan Anderson, a triple amputee, who frequently visits All Saints to speak to students. He also has given All Saints students input on designs for 3D Printed Prosthetics that Upper School students designed.

Anderson spoke to students about the importance of perseverance, even when all looks lost.

“You can’t always control what happens to you, but you can control your reaction to

it,” Anderson said. He added that often the only thing holding a person back is the belief that they can’t succeed. He said it was something that would have been all too easy to fall into the trap of as he learned to navigate his new life.

“Your mind stops you,” he said. “My goal is to keep trying, keep doing new things. I’ve still got strength in all the right places.”

Anderson spoke about limitations he had learned to overcome and showed students just how much can be accomplished through hard work. He even challenged dozens of Lower School students to a push up contest.

Anderson asked students what they wanted to do in life and got a variety of answers such as to become doctor, soldier and mime. Then he told students all they needed to achieve those dreams.

“Find that person that you would like to be and start growing toward that,” he said.

Twitter: @TMT_Cory

Southern Baptists ready to put spotlight on sex-abuse crisis

Entangled in a multifaceted sex-abuse crisis, the Southern Baptist Convention is preparing to host a high-profile conference on the topic that has kindled skepticism even among some of the scheduled speakers.

The three-day Caring Well conference opens Thursday at a resort hotel near Dallas, drawing hundreds of pastors and church officials from the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. for a program featuring victim advocates, attorneys, therapists and at least 10 survivors of sexual abuse.

Several of those survivors told The Associated Press they had mixed feelings about the conference — hoping it represents a genuine desire for change but concerned it might come across as a public relations exercise.

The first survivor scheduled to speak is Susan Codone, a professor at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, who says she was abused as a teenager by the youth minister and pastor at her SBC church in Alabama.

She is grateful that SBC leaders now seem to be taking the sex abuse problem seriously, but suggested progress would come faster if the denomination — which espouses male leadership at church and in the home — brought more women into leadership roles.

“The anger in the survivor community has been extremely valuable for instigating change,” she said. “But changing the culture of the SBC will take generations.”

There’s been some sharp criticism of the conference from several anti-abuse activists who were not invited to speak, including Christa Brown, an author and retired attorney who says she was abused by a Southern Baptist minister as a child. She suggested that organizers opted to invite survivors whose stories were deemed “risk-free for the SBC.”

“They have picked those who don’t ask anything of them at this point,” said Brown, who has been pushing the SBC to create an independently run database listing pastors and other church personnel who have been credibly accused of abuse.

The conference is being organized by the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, which holds a national meeting every year in its role as the SBC’s public policy arm. It decided in April to scrap its planned theme, “Gospel Courage,” and instead devote the entire meeting to the sex-abuse crisis wracking the SBC and other churches.

The commission’s president, the Rev. Russell Moore, says he and his colleagues sought a diverse array of speakers, and are urging them to be “candid and forthright.”

“I can understand skepticism from all sorts of people, given the track record of the church, especially over the past several years,” he said.

The conference is not intended to produce new policies or recommendations. Its goal, Moore said, is to provide churches with expert advice on how to prevent abuse and support abuse survivors.

Due to multiple scandals, sex abuse became a major issue for the SBC in 2018. Its president, the Rev. J.D. Greear, formed an advisory group to draft recommendation s on how to confront the problem.

The crisis intensified this year, in part due to articles by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News asserting that hundreds of Southern Baptist clergy and staff had been accused of sexual misconduct over the past 20 years. Many of them returned to church duties, the articles said, and more than 700 victims were left with little in the way of justice or apologies.

At the SBC’s national meeting in June in Birmingham, Alabama, Greear issued an emotional apology for the crisis as he shared a stage with tearful survivors of abuse.

Among the most prominent invitees to the upcoming conference is attorney/activist Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to go public with sexual assault complaints against now-imprisoned former sports doctor Larry Nassar.

“Looking at the lineup of speakers, there are some incredibly important voices, but there are others who don’t have credibility in the survivor network,” said Denhollander, who attends a Reformed Baptist church in Louisville, Kentucky. “You’re going to see a very sharp divide between those who want to deal with the problem honestly and those who want to preserve the status quo.”

Another scheduled speaker is Boz Tchividjian, an attorney who is the grandson of evangelist Billy Graham and who heads GRACE, an organization working to combat sexual abuse in faith-based organizations.

Tchividjian has close ties with many abuse survivors and says he understands many of their concerns about the SBC’s resolve in combating this problem. He said he initially wrestled with his decision before agreeing to speak, but intends to be “constructively direct” about how the SBC is fueling such concerns among many people who were abused within SBC churches.

“I think the SBC must go through a season of substantive lament, learning and changes if it ever wants to become a genuine leader in preventing and addressing all forms of abuse,” said Tchividjian. “I want to remain hopeful for change, but time will be the true test.”

Psychologist Diane Langberg, who runs a clinic near Philadelphia, will address the conference on how to help support abuse survivors. She’s an expert on abuse and other traumas occurring in the context of Christian churches, and says she wants to provide “a strong voice” at the conference on behalf of victims.

“This is a systemic issue — and it’s going to take years for a system to change,” she said. “It’s like turning a huge ship. I want to strengthen the voices calling for the ship to turn, so they do it strongly and clearly, and know it’s a long haul.”

Among abuse survivors, there are sharply contrasting views about the SBC’s anti-abuse efforts.

Jules Woodson, a Colorado Springs-based flight attendant, says she was sexually assaulted by her youth pastor in Texas two decades ago at age 17 and received no support after reporting the incident to her senior pastors. Only in 2018 did Woodson file a police report, eventually prompting the former youth pastor to apologize and resign from his current church position.

The upcoming conference, Woodson says, “is giving off a false hope that the SBC is taking this seriously.”

“I have not seen genuine repentance or genuine moves toward change,” she said. “It’s all words right now — it’s lip service.”

By contrast, Megan Lively of Wilson, North Carolina, says she’s been solidly supported by SBC leaders since identifying herself as a key figure in a 2003 sexual-assault incident that contributed to last year’s ouster of the Rev. Paige Patterson as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Patterson was faulted for discouraging Lively from filing a report with police after she told school administrators she’d been raped by a fellow student while attending Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Patterson was president of the school at the time.

Lively, one of the scheduled speakers at the conference, says she doesn’t consider herself a “safe option” for the organizers.

“I know that SBC leaders have listened to women inside and outside the church,” she said. “For over a year, I’ve been telling them things, making suggestions. They have listened to me.”

Added Lively, “For me, it’s more important to stay involved in the process from within than to demand change from the outside.”

The Southern Baptist Convention encompasses more than 47,000 individual churches. It had 14.8 million members in 2018.

Bob Westbrook running for Smith County Commissioners Court

Tyler City Councilman Bob Westbrook has announced a run for the Smith County Commissioners Court in the March 3 Republican Primary.

Westbrook will run against Commissioner Terry Phillips, a real estate investor who is in his third four-year term. Phillips was first elected in 2009.

Westbrook lives in The Woods subdivision, which is part of Precinct 3. The precinct also includes portions of Tyler, New Chapel Hill, Lindale, Winona, Hideaway, Arp and Overton, and some of the county’s most rural areas.

“The citizens all over Precinct 3 have basically been underrepresented for the time he’s been in office there, and they need more than just an advocate occasionally from the County Judge,” Westbrook said.

Westbrook is in his second two-year term on the City Council after first being elected in 2017. His City Council district includes The Wood subdivision and neighborhoods near the University of Texas at Tyler, among others.

For the past year, Westbrook has been doing constituent outreach, including morning coffee events at Tyler fire stations. He has been an advocate for increasing the city of Tyler’s tax rate in order to fund infrastructure.

Westbrook is a past chairman of the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce and has held other leadership positions within the business group. He made his living for 19 years owning and running restaurants under the CiCi’s Pizza franchise.

Westbrook made the announcement through the consulting firm dot the i. He said he would resign his City Council seat in December 2020 if elected to the Commissioners Court.

TWITTER and INSTAGRAM: @_erinmansfield