The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Anne Cox Chambers, media heiress and former ambassador to Belgium, dies at 100

Anne Cox Chambers, center, after being awarded the French Legion of Honor in 2009. (Thibault Camus/AP)

Anne Cox Chambers, a media heiress, former ambassador and philanthropist who was one of the country’s richest women, died Jan. 31. She was 100.

Her nephew James Cox Kennedy announced the death to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, her company’s flagship newspaper. Other details were not available.

Mrs. Chambers, a director of Cox Enterprises, promoted Jimmy Carter’s political career and served as U.S. ambassador to Belgium during his presidency.

Forbes estimated her net worth several years ago at nearly $17 billion. She was well known for her charitable giving, and she served on the boards of the Atlanta Arts Alliance and the High Museum of Art, among other institutions.

She was the daughter of James Middleton Cox, the 1920 Democratic presidential candidate and founder of Cox Enterprises. The privately held company has included the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other newspapers, radio and TV stations, cable TV systems and other businesses. Mrs. Chambers and her mother and siblings inherited the company when her father died in 1957.

She owned a white-columned manor across from the governor’s mansion in Atlanta, where Jimmy Carter would bring his daughter, Amy, over to swim in the pool. She also had an estate in France and an apartment in New York.

Most of her wealthy friends were Republicans, but she remained a staunch Democrat. In 1988, she said Jesse Jackson was not qualified to be president, telling Vanity Fair magazine “I think it’s too soon for us to have a black president.”

But by 2008, the 89-year-old Mrs. Chambers was knocking on doors to drum up support for the presidential campaign of Barack Obama, the Journal-Constitution reported.

“I just don’t discuss politics with my friends. No use having fights,” she once told Vanity Fair.

“Both of my parents were extremely caring people, so that I think growing up, well, there was the fact of feeling responsible,” she said. “My father’s rich friends would complain about paying taxes, but he used to say it was a privilege to pay taxes. In Russia, you’d never make enough money to pay those taxes.”

Mrs. Chambers’s support of Carter, who captured the Georgia governor’s office with her help in 1970 and the presidency in 1976, won her an appointment as U.S. ambassador to Belgium in 1977.

“People all over had told me she wouldn’t accept it,” Carter recalled in a 1988 interview. “They said Anne didn’t like to go to banquets, didn’t like to meet large numbers of people and absolutely would not make a speech, even to just a few people. She was very timorous about public events.”

There were also comments from critics who noted that Carter had vowed to pick professional diplomats to be his ambassadors.

But she did accept the job, joking later that she didn’t realize her many conversations with Carter over the years “had been my interviews for an ambassador’s post.” She called the appointment “the greatest honor and privilege of my life.”

After returning to the United States when Carter left office in 1981, Mrs. Chambers continued to be a major donor to the Democratic National Committee and Democratic candidates. She also bought an estate in Provence, France, and was awarded the French Legion of Honor.

Anne Beau Cox was born Dec. 1, 1919, in Dayton, Ohio. She attended a boarding school in Connecticut and Finch College in New York.

Her father had begun the family business in 1898 when he purchased the Dayton Daily News. He also was a three-term Ohio governor and a congressman. In 1920, he became the Democratic nominee for president — Franklin D. Roosevelt was his running mate — but he lost to Republican Warren G. Harding.

After her father’s death, Mrs. Chambers shared ownership of the company with her mother, a sister and a brother. Mrs. Chambers had little to do with the day-to-day operations of the vast media empire. A nephew, James Cox Kennedy, is now chairman of Cox Enterprises.

Her marriages to Louis G. Johnson and Robert W. Chambers ended in divorce. She had two daughters with Johnson and a son with Chambers. Complete information about survivors was not immediately available.

— Associated Press

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