Watergate Prosecutor Cox Dies at 92

Cox was a skilled oral advocate, and “people would come from all over to watch him argue a case because he did it so well,” Heymann said.

Cox returned to HLS in 1966. Over the next several tumultuous years, Cox oversaw the University’s response to student protesters who opposed the Vietnam war.

During the occupation of the Architectural Technology Workshop on Memorial Drive, The Crimson published a March 12, 1971 news article characterizing Cox as the “nation’s leading confrontation expert.”

“He first made his name as a University strategist when he headed the blue-ribbon panel appointed by the Columbia administration to investigate the causes of the massive student strike which paralyzed that university in April of 1968,” the article stated.

After Cox was fired as the Watergate special prosecutor in 1973, he taught constitutional law at HLS. Cox also served on the faculty at Boston University Law School and wrote several books, including Law and the National Labor Policy, Civil Rights, the Constitution and the Courts, Freedom of Expression, and The Court and the Constitution.


In 1980, Cox became chair of Common Cause, an advocacy group in Washington, D.C. The HLS faculty made Cox an honorary member of the Order of the Coif, an historic group that recognizes significant contributions to the legal profession, in 1991.

At an October 2003 ceremony at HLS, Cox witnessed the unveiling of his portrait, which now hangs in Pound Hall.

Robert H. Mnookin ’64, who is Williston professor of law—a chair Cox once held—said of his predecessor at the event, “I think he certainly represents the ideals that we at HLS should aspire to—gifted, public-spirited, extremely hard-working and idealistic in a pragmatic way.”

Heymann told The Crimson the University administration would often call on Cox, “the nation’s role model of honor,” to offer his opinion on certain matters.

“When there was a very tough decision, the president, especially [then-University President] Derek C. Bok, would bring Archie in because he wanted his judgment,” Heymann said. “He knew it would be fair and very intelligent.”

Above all, Heymann said, Cox was a man of the highest character.

“Once he decided something was the right thing to do,” he said, “then he would just do it. It didn’t occur to him that he was doing something special.”

Cox is survived by his wife Phyllis Ames; two daughters, Phyllis, of Denver, Colo. and Sarah, of Brooksville, Me.; a son, Archibald Jr., of Markleville, Ind.; and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

—Staff writer Andrew C. Esensten can be reached at