The Cox Family—consisting of Willard, his late wife Marie, and their four children; Evelyn, Lynn, Sidney and Suzanne—began performing together in 1972. They first saw regional fame in the South, as they toured across their homestate, Louisiana, as well as Texas, Mississippi and Arkansas. The local bluegrass heroes were beloved for the vocal harmony they delivered while performing both hymns and original songs.
In 1993, they worked with 27-time GRAMMY winner Alison Krauss, who produced their album Everybody's Reaching Out For Someone. The following year, Krauss and The Cox Family released a collaborative gospel album, I Know Who Holds Tomorrow, which earned a win for Best Southern Gospel, Country Gospel Or Bluegrass Gospel Album at the 37th GRAMMY Awards.
The family's acclaim began to spread across the country, and in 2000, they were invited to work on the soundtrack for the Golden Globe-winning Coen Brothers film, Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? Krauss also performed on the soundtrack, which won all of them the coveted Album Of The Year at the 44th GRAMMY Awards.
The Cox Family's song on the soundtrack, "I Am Weary (Let Me Rest)," is one of their most popular on streaming services and helped them reach international audiences. On the deluxe edition of the album, they had two more songs; "Keep On The Sunny Side" and and "In The Highway."
Unfortunately, not long after the family finished working on the iconic soundtrack, Willard and Marie were seriously hurt in a car accident, leaving Willard with a severe spine injury. Despite the challenges, the family performed a limited number of shows with Willard in a wheelchair. Marie also fought breast cancer for several years and passed away in 2009.
The Cox Family's final album, Gone Like The Cotton, was released in 2015.
Willard's funeral service is taking place today in Minden, La. The surviving family shared a kind message on the obituary: "The Family wishes to thank you all the thoughts and prayers shown during this time so far! Please continue to keep us in your prayers in the next few days as we celebrate his life!"