- The Washington Times - Monday, May 31, 2004

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor fired by President Nixon for refusing to curtail his Watergate investigation, died Saturday at his home, his daughter said. He was 92.

Mr. Cox’s daughter, Phyllis Cox, said her father died peacefully at home in Brooksville, Maine, and said the cause was old age.

A longtime Harvard law professor, Mr. Cox also had been an adviser to President John F. Kennedy and served him as U.S. solicitor general.

In May 1973, he was asked to head the special prosecution force investigating charges Republican Party operatives had broken into the Democratic campaign headquarters at the Watergate Hotel prior to the 1972 presidential election.

Mr. Nixon ordered Mr. Cox fired in October 1973 for his continued efforts to obtain tape recordings made at the White House, important evidence in the investigation of the Watergate break-in and coverup.

The day before, Mr. Nixon had refused to comply with a federal appeals court order to surrender the tapes, declined to appeal to the Supreme Court and ordered Mr. Cox to drop the case. But Mr. Cox vowed to continue, saying pulling back would violate his promise to the Senate and would be bowing to “exaggerated claims of executive privilege.”

At his firing, Mr. Cox issued a one-sentence statement: “Whether ours shall be a government of laws and not of men is now for Congress and ultimately the American people.”

Former White House Counsel John Dean said Mr. Cox’s place in the history of Watergate is assured.

“No question, he’ll always be a part of that history … his firing was the catalyst that started the march towards impeachment,” Mr. Dean said from his home in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Reflecting on the scandal years later, Mr. Cox said it was a time when “the country showed its appreciation of the ancient rule that even the highest executive must be subject to the law.”

In 1991, he was made an honorary member of the Order of the Coif by the law school faculty. The Coif is a legal order dating back to 1902 in the United States and several hundred years earlier in England. It honors those who have made significant contributions to the legal profession.

Mr. Cox was born and raised in Plainfield, N.J. He graduated from Harvard in 1934 and from its law school in 1937.

An expert on labor law, Mr. Cox in 1941 accepted a position on the staff of the National Defense Mediation Board, and after two years was appointed an associate solicitor in the Department of Labor.

Mr. Cox began his many years of teaching at Harvard in 1945 and remained with the law school until he worked full time on the Kennedy presidential campaign staff. He then was named solicitor general in the new administration.

He returned to Harvard in 1965.

He is survived by his wife, Phyllis Ames, and their three children, Phyllis, Sarah and Archibald Jr.

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