Who Is Archie Cox?
HARVARD MEN had a good deal to do with the establishment of the American form of government. Harvard has contributed five presidents to the country and countless cabinet members and administrators. On occasion, as with Vietnam, Harvard has contributed unparalleled bad advice.
But the Watergate affair perpetrated by President Nixon's ad agency hypesters, the worst scandal ever to rock the White House, has put Harvard back in the position of bailing out its younger cousin, the U.S. government.
At the center of the Watergate controversy is Harvard's former trouble-shooter, Archibald Cox '34, Williston Professor of Law and the Justice Department's special Watergate prosecutor. Cox was appointed in mid-May by attorney general Elliot L. Richardson '41, who studied under Cox at the Law School right after World War II.
Samuel Dash, chief majority counsel for the Senate select committee investigating Watergate, also learned his law under Cox in the forties.
Cox wasted no time in reinforcing the Harvard Brigade for the Watergate battle. Five days after his appointment, Cox tapped Philip B. Heymann and James Vorenberg '49, professors of Law, as informal assistants to aid him in setting up the investigation.
Cox, a trim, tall 61-year-old labor lawyer, will hold the key command position in the Harvard Brigade, independent from even his nominal superior Richardson. As special prosecutor he will be in charge of all prosecutions stemming from offenses committed during last year's presidential campaign.
ALIBERAL Democrat who has served under four Democratic presidents, Cox is no stranger either to Washington or to crisis situations. During the late sixties, when the nation's campuses were embroiled in controversy, Cox earned a reputation as "university trouble-shooter" for his role in investigating the 1968 Columbia University disorders and his efforts to end a Harvard building takeover in March 1971.
In the spring of 1968, Cox chaired a five-member factfinding commission which studied the riots and building takeovers at Columbia University and in the fall of 1969, just after the takeover of University Hall, the Corporation granted him a broad mandate to handle disorders at Harvard.
One of the apparent reasons for Cox's selection as special prosecutor was his scrupulous regard for independence. During the Korean War, Cox headed the Wage Stabilization Board, but resigned after four months when President Harry S. Truman reversed one of his decisions on a wage increase for the United Mine Workers.
At Harvard, Cox demanded almost unilateral decision-making power in his duties as trouble-shooter. In early March 1971, Cox almost single-handedly brought a non-violent end to the nine-day occupation of a vacant building at 888 Memorial Drive being held by militant women's groups.
Two weeks later, Cox earned notoriety among Harvard radicals for his role in the controversy surrounding a prowar "counter teach-in." Cox floated reports before the incident that any disruptions by antiwar activists would be taken as violations of academic freedom.
On the night of the teach-in, March 26, 1971, Cox appeared on the stage in Sanders Theater to plead with the crowd to stop the chanting and clapping which had made it impossible for the pro-war speakers to be heard. "You have the power to disrupt this meeting at any time. But will you please let me speak?" Cox told the noisy audience.
Cox continued a prepared speech despite the fact that few in the crowd could hear him. "If this meeting is disrupted--hateful as some of us may find it--then liberty will have died a little and those guilty of disruption will have done inestimable damage to the cause of humanity and peace."
When the noise failed to abate after 45 minutes, Cox called off the teach-in and the crowd dispersed. Cox later took charge of the University disciplinary actions against those accused of disruption.
COX WILL almost certainly insist on maintaining an independent course as Watergate prosecutor. In one of his first public statements after the appointment, the white-haired, crewcut professor told The Crimson in an exclusive interview that he had definitely decided to take most of his staff from outside the ranks of the present administration.
Despite his close personal ties to many of the career officers in the Justice Department, formed during his four years as U.S. Solicitor General under Presidents John F. Kennedy '40 and Lyndon B. Johnson, Cox apparently feels that reliance on present government employees may prejudice his handling of the case.
Cox also said in the interview on May 19, the day after his appointment was announced, that he was reserving the right to review all the pertinent government data already compiled by the three assistant attorney generals before deciding how to proceed with the case.
Cox's colleagues and students verify that he is nothing if not independent. "He's a tough, independent-minded man," one said, adding that Cox liked to keep his decisions to himself. One of Cox's present students commented that he "could be a bastard in a classroom with someone who isn't answering the question," a talent he could be called on to demonstrate in dealing with recalcitrant Watergate witnesses.
A tight-lipped, soft-spoken man by nature, Cox's relation with the press, crucial to the maintenance of his credibility, may suffer from his vaunted reticence. Cox spent most of the day of his appointment dodging reporters until he could be unveiled at a 5 p.m. press conference, and even then his only comment on the scandal he has been assigned to unravel was that "it seems very, very big."
Unravelling the tangled web of Watergate will require all the energy that Cox can muster. He expects the investigation to take at least a year or more and points out that the inquiry into Teapot Dome consumed six years of study.
Whether in rumpled, professorial grey suit and Dunlopesque bow tie before a Law School class, in morning coat and striped pants before the Supreme Court, or in dungarees and sweater in the garden of his suburban home in Wayland, 20 miles west of Boston, Cox combines youthful energy with the deliberateness of the scholar suggested by the half-moon glasses that perch on the tip of his nose.
Cox once wrote, in fact, that his greatest conviction was concurrence with Ezra Thayer in the view that "the central tragedy of life is that there are only 24 hours in the day." On the other hand, Cox, who will be moving to Washington with his wife, Phyllis, for the year, has found limits to his capacity. "For a time I guess I'll be doing some coming back and forth," Cox sighs and then flashes his easy grin. "But I'm no Dean Dunlop--I haven't got his capacity to sit up all night on airplanes."