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WILTRON employee picnic-July 10, 1976 at Huddart Park. Shown above at left, Melvin Jackman, center, Joan Bitney and at right, Sam Cox.

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The drawing room of the Jarvis home in Palo Alto, part of the gay New Year’s eve celebration. To the right of the dance floor are the glass doors leading to the swimming pool and tropical garden.

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The notorious New Year’s Eve 1975 party at the Jarvis home in Palo Alto. The swimming pool and tropical garden were an integral part of the home.

 

Sam Joins WILTRON
 

But Sam wanted the power that would come from an association with a growing manufacturing company, which he found in WILTRON. Among his accounts, Sam spotted WILTRON as a winner. When we needed a treasurer, he interviewed and got the spot. He then commenced a brilliant career in corporate finance. He also brought in a top level Arthur Anderson associate, Mark Evans, another brilliant fellow and, as it proved, much more solid than Sam himself turned out to be. I hired Sam in September of 1972 as Treasurer. As far as I know, for the first seven years Sam was a loyal employee, an asset to our company. When Sam came to WILTRON he literally brought Arthur Anderson, the Big Eight Auditor, along in his pocket. From the very beginning as WILTRON’s Treasurer, Sam kept control of the audit—perhaps it was only instinct, perhaps it was part of a long range plan. He had his staff do many of the worksheets for the auditors; he insisted that this practice of doing them in-house saved enormously on audit fees.

Sam was amiably fat; his weight was always in flux. An oversize appetite would steadily build up his mass, then an occasional burst of dieting would force it back down. His rumpled clothes loosely accommodated his changing girth. His large head appeared even larger due to ringlets of short hair. While his pudgy legs propelled him forward with a purposeful stride, his large round eyes would fix on you with a casual impudence. Sam could make light of even the most important things. To him, that proved that he did not think small.

To converse with Sam was to be barraged with hyperbole—not exactly what you would expect from a career accountant. Sam never failed to make his point, emphasize it, then drive it home. If you weren’t on guard, Sam might overpower you. But he would accept being overruled (which I sometimes found necessary) because, finally, nothing was that important to him.

Early on in life Sam realized that he was good at matching wits; he developed pastimes that honed this skill. What could be more fun than a low stakes poker game with associates? Each time when Sam matched wits and won, his ego soared. His ego, like his weight, could expand almost without bounds.

Sam’s ego was not helped by the fact that he came from Fresno, the raisin capital of the world. He somehow had to live down this pedestrian past. How limiting it was for him to admit he went to Fresno State College. As time went by, he was to distance himself from his parents and his prosaic agricultural town. To amuse himself, he studied French, which was a cultural step forward; he also became a wine gourmet, another step forward—satisfying both appetite and ego.

It is funny what sticks in people’s memories. But I can tell you that all the old-timers at WILTRON wear as a badge of distinction their attendance at the New Year’s Eve party at my Palo Alto home, the party where most of us went into the pool, no clothes.
The swimming pool along with its tropical garden is inside the house. That night the lighting for the pool and tropical garden was subdued so we could have a little frolic in the pool, more or less incognito. It was all pretty innocent but, as one can imagine, a lot of fun. The funniest incident of the whole night occurred when some messenger arrived with a statement for Sam Cox to sign in his capacity as Treasurer. Sam pulled his pudgy body out of the pool and walked into the dining room in front of everybody to sign the document. Water was running off the curly ringlets of hair over his blue eyes down his roly-poly stomach and dripping off his little wiener onto the orange tile floor. Sam, oblivious to the whole situation, finished signing and jumped back in the pool.

It was easy for me to notice that Sam was ego-motivated, so I let him be “out front” in negotiations of all sorts. I was the only one who knew that Sam was just carrying out my plans. I kept it that way to motivate him. How could I have known that this sop to his ego was not even a starter, that his ego was beyond any containable bounds? But I don’t fault myself on that score, nor can I fault the financial people whom Sam duped. Sam was one of a kind. He really knew how to impress businessmen and to inspire their confidence.

Sam was a fun guy. Even when he was on the verge of being found out, several of those close to him protected him out of a sense of loyalty. There were many others of us who trusted Sam—fellow workers, auditors, normally cautious bankers, his wife and children, bookies, gambling friends. We all trusted Sam; I think we equated his glibness and his quick repartee with intelligence. It seemed most improbable to us that this intelligent person would ever be involved with crookedness especially when his total career depended on honesty. How could we have guessed that Sam would settle for so little—that he would be Big Shot just for today at the cost of many tomorrows of ignominy. It seemed beyond question that this giant intellect would take a direct road to prison
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