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.
Cox’s daughter, Phyllis Cox, said her father died peacefully at his home in Brooksville, Maine, and said the cause was old age.
Cox, a longtime Harvard law professor, had also 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.
Nixon ordered 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, Nixon had refused to comply with a federal appeals court order to surrender the tapes, declined to appeal to the Supreme Court and ordered Cox to drop the case. But Cox vowed to continue, saying pulling back would violate his promise to the Senate and would be bowing to “exaggerated claims of executive privilege.”
The firing shook the nation and became known as “The Saturday Night Massacre.”
Attorney General Elliot Richardson and his deputy, William Ruckelshaus, both refused to carry out Nixon’s orders to fire Cox, resigning instead. Then-Solicitor General Robert Bork, who would 14 years later lose a Supreme Court bid after a strenuous debate over his legal theories, handled the job of firing Cox.