Archibald Cox: Conscience of a Nation

Overview

In October 1973, America was transfixed by a battle of wills between President Richard Nixon and a 61-year-old law professor. Archibald Cox was serving in a new post - Special Prosecutor - to investigate the Watergate break-in. Quietly but resolutely he asked the White House to release tapes of important conversations. Facing a Supreme Court deadline, Nixon ordered Cox to be fired. The top two officials of the Justice Department resigned in protest. Overnight, public opinion swung against Nixon and turned Cox ...
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Overview

In October 1973, America was transfixed by a battle of wills between President Richard Nixon and a 61-year-old law professor. Archibald Cox was serving in a new post - Special Prosecutor - to investigate the Watergate break-in. Quietly but resolutely he asked the White House to release tapes of important conversations. Facing a Supreme Court deadline, Nixon ordered Cox to be fired. The top two officials of the Justice Department resigned in protest. Overnight, public opinion swung against Nixon and turned Cox into an American hero. Ken Gormley's gripping biography shows how that confrontation was a natural result of the principles, hard as New England granite, which guided Archibald Cox through life. In his distinguished and dramatic career, Cox had clerked for the legendary judge Learned Hand, carpooled into Washington with Harold Ickes during World War II, and chaired Harry Truman's Wage Stabilization Board. On the Harvard faculty he was the nation's foremost expert in labor law, and he became the top academic adviser to the handsome young senator from Massachusetts, John F. Kennedy. After President Kennedy named him Solicitor General of the United States, the professor grew into the leading Supreme Court lawyer of the century. Through extensive interviews, the author illuminates Cox's crucial role in the debates within Bobby Kennedy's Justice Department over how to handle integration sit-ins, voting rights, and other constitutional questions. Cox's quietly growing reputation led to the two biggest challenges of his career. The first was his little-known responsibility for handling Vietnam-era protests at Harvard, fully told here for the first time. The second came after men linked to the White House broke into Democratic Partly headquarters in the Watergate Hotel. Using newly released documents, Gormley reveals how badly leaks had compromised the Justice Department investigation of this break-in and how the White House planned to edit its tape transcripts. I
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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
The jurist who gave Richard Nixon fits receives his due in a satisfying biography.

Gormley (Law/Duquesne Univ.) approaches Cox as an exponent of a particularly tough, independent-minded, Yankee kind of approach to the law. Born in 1912, Cox came of age in a time when the legal profession was nearly universally respected and when whole lineages devoted themselves to the practice of law (Gormley notes that Cox's great-grandfather William Maxwell Evarts defended Andrew Johnson when impeachment proceedings were undertaken against him in 1868). After clerking for the eminent federal judge Learned Hand, Cox became a government labor lawyer, then a Harvard professor, and then entered politics somewhat reluctantly as a speechwriter for presidential candidate John Kennedy. Despite his solid résumé, Cox was seemingly unprepared for the scrutiny that would attach to his work as the government's special prosecutor in the Watergate investigation of 1973. Gormley examines Nixon's charge that Cox was a politically motivated hit man who, with his staff, "bored like termites through the whole executive branch," noting that Cox was in fact something of a legal conservative who criticized such rulings as Roe v. Wade and who found the whole business of turning up evidence against a sitting president personally distasteful. Gormley gives a careful account of the events leading up to Cox's dismissal at Nixon's orders; the man who fired him was a federal judge named Robert Bork, whose role as hatchet man would come back to haunt him more than a decade later as a nominee for the Supreme Court.

Students of the Watergate years will find a few other gems in Gormley's pages, including an admission from Nixon's chief of staff Alexander Haig that the president "could well be guilty." Otherwise, this well-written biography will be of most interest to students of law in the public interest.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780641029516
  • Publisher: Addison-Wesley
  • Publication date: 9/16/1997
  • Pages: 585

Meet the Author

Ken Gormley is a professor of law at Duquesne University School of Law in Pittsburgh, and is also mayor of Forest Hills, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh.

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Table of Contents

Foreword by Elliot Richardson ix
PROLOGUE THE IMPEACHMENT TRIAL xiii
PART ONE THE MAKING OF A LAWYER
1 BILLY COX 3
2 HARVARD 18
3 LEARNED HAND 35
4 PIONEER IN LABOR LAW 48
5 A CALL FROM THE WHITE HOUSE 63
6 A YANKEE PROFESSOR 79
PART TWO THE KENNEDY YEARS
7 YOUNG SENATOR KENNEDY 97
8 THE CANDIDATE'S ACADEMIC ADVISER 112
9 TENSIONS IN THE 1960 CAMPAIGN 123
10 THE CELESTIAL GENERAL 140
11 THE LANDMARK CASES 161
12 NEW PRESIDENT 182
13 STUDENT RIOTS 199
PART THREE WATERGATE AND BEYOND
14 A THIRD-RATE BURGLARY? 229
15 THE NEW SPECIAL PROSECUTOR 252
16 OPENING ARGUMENTS 269
17 BATTLE FOR THE TAPES 290
18 SHOWDOWN WITH THE PRESIDENT 318
19 THE SATURDAY NIGHT MASSACRE 338
20 WHITE HOUSE MYSTERIES 359
21 THE WATERGATE CLEANUP 378
22 SEMIRETIREMENT 393
EPILOGUE HOME TO NEW ENGLAND 425
Sources 441
Notes 461
Acknowledgments 563
Index 569
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First Chapter

CHAPTER ONE

"BILLY" COX

The old Evarts estate in Windsor, with its sprawling collection of homes and wooded acres nestled under Mount Ascutney, left a brilliant impression on Archibald Cox, Jr., from the earliest days.

"The earliest days" for Archie began as soon as his mother could wrap him in a blanket and drive him from their home in Plainfield, New Jersey, to the mountains of Vermont. A worn, brown leather guest book that his grandmother Perkins kept for Runnemede Lodge beginning in 1907 recorded that Frances Perkins Cox and Archibald Cox, Jr. (Archie and his mother), arrived in Windsor from Plainfield on June 12, 1912, less than a month after young Archie was born on May 17. His name was inscribed in the guest book carefully, as if by a first-time mother hoping that someone would one day open the brown book searching for this special name, the ambitious dreams of a mother envisioning boundless success for her first-born child. (The leather book would of course be opened for just that purpose, eighty years later, but it was through no help of the boy himself.)

Archie's mother was the granddaughter of William Maxwell Evarts, once-famous statesman from New York who had defended President Andrew Johnson in his infamous impeachment trial. By 1912, not all Americans appreciated the full importance of the name Evarts; in Windsor, however, the Evarts family name was as good as the golden history of Vermont itself.

Frances Cox (her friends called her "Fanny") was a striking woman--five foot, eight--with a straight nose and chiseled chill that would be inherited by her oldest son and the six other children who followed. She enjoyed playing bridge, reading, drinking tea, and reciting poetry with older ladies who came to spend the afternoon. Even after motherhood arrived, she still found time for card games, picnics, hikes up Mount Ascutney, and family swims announced at the drop of a hat--she simply carried the new baby in tow.

The guest book recorded that Archibald Cox, Sr. (the father), arrived at Windsor on July 12, 1912, from New York. He visited his wife and baby for a long weekend and then vanished, traveling back in the Pullman car of the White Mountain Express, a common compromise for a busy lawyer from the city. He was the son of Rowland Cox, a Philadelphia Quaker who had served in the cavalry in Pennsylvania and was transferred to Illinois during the Civil War, but somehow wound up in Manhattan as a prominent nineteenth-century lawyer. He authored Cox's Manual of Trade Marks and gained prominence by defending the copyright of the Oxford Bible against a New York publishing company. When he died suddenly in 1900, his son took over his father's law practice fresh out of Harvard Law School, quickly becoming an expert in copyrights, trademarks, and patents.

It was a settled part of family lore that neither Archibald, Sr., nor his father would consider having a partner in law practice, a symptom of the unabashed "streak of independence in the family." Nevertheless, Archibald, Sr., managed "to hold the practice" with enough flair and verve to become one of the more well-established members of the community in Plainfield, New Jersey. That affluence only burst into greater prominence when he established Johnson & Johnson's right to use the "red cross" symbol as its trademark.

The Coxes and Perkinses (not coincidentally, when it came to Archie's parents pairing up) were both prominent families in Plainfield, a town of thirty or forty thousand on the New Jersey Central and B & O railroads, halfway between New York and Princeton. According to family lore, Archibald, Sr., had spotted Frances Perkins walking down the steps of his parents' home in Plainfield when she was only seven years old. He announced, "There's the girl I'm going to marry." Although he had to wait a decade (he was eighteen years older), the two ended up sweethearts and made up for lost time with seven children.

The senior Archibald grew into a tall, attractive man with silvery hair and a pipe in his teeth, who favored bow ties in the casual months of the summer. He was president of the Board of Education in Plainfield. The consummate host, he invited a swarm of Plainfield neighbors to visit his home for a gala gathering each Christmas, complete with blazing candles that dripped wax on a giant spruce tree, and his own fireman standing by "just in case." He was a gregarious, outgoing, charming man, who was frequently asked to run for mayor. But his busy law practice prevented extended forays into local government or politics. In 1911 Archibald Cox, Sr., wrote in his class report to old Harvard College friends: "There is nothing really to write. I have done nothing but practice law, and it is hardly worth while to write the things which I have not done." Except for his natural charm and his ability to gulp down two eggs in a single breath before rushing off to catch the 7:55 train to New York, even his seven children would learn regretfully little about him by the end of their time together.

One mystery that family members never unraveled was why young Archie was bestowed with the nickname "Billy" as soon as he was born. His father was certainly proud to have a boy; Frances Cox recorded that her husband walked up and down the hallway singing, "There'll be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight!" when his first son was born. But he made no secret that he disliked the idea of providing the world with an "Archibald, Jr."; he began calling his first son "Bill" the moment his wife introduced the baby. The rest of the Coxes never figured out whether "Bill" was derived from the revered family name of William M. Evarts, or whether it was a random selection that meant "anything is better than another Archibald." No matter how the nickname came about, as soon as Archie, Jr., became old enough to express an opinion, he made clear that he would just as soon use his own name. But the request was never quite honored by his family, who continued to call him "Bill"--out of force of habit--for the rest of their lives.

By the time 1914 arrived and Archie was two, the boy was able to scribble a "B" next to his name in his grandmother's guest book in Windsor, presumably for "Billy." And by the time he reached the age of nine, in 1921, Archie's signature would appear in the same guest book with a clear, strong hand as "Archibald Cox, Jr."

The trips from New Jersey to Vermont were recorded each summer like the steady ticking of a clock. Runnemede Lodge was a red brick house with white pillars, built in 1825, that Grandmother Perkins had inherited as one of the twelve children of William M. Evarts. It was the second of six houses (two were later torn down) tucked behind a long, white picket fence surrounded by wide lawns and sweeping ferns that the statesman had purchased along Main Street to allow his children the privilege of living this idyllic lifestyle in perpetuity. They were six magnificent storybook houses, fanned out like a lost millionaire's row in this private, withdrawn, unpretentious New England town. Here the Cox family grew its own network of Yankee roots.

As Archibald Cox, Jr., grew up tall and lanky, with blond hair and a sculpted chin of determination, summers remained synonymous with Windsor: swimming in "the Pond" out back, canoeing up to the sluice gates, riding Morgan horses down old carriage roads laden with pine needles, visiting his Evarts cousins at their forty-room farmhouse-mansion (with thirteen baths) on Juniper Hill, hitting baseballs, and exploring Paradise. The hike over to Paradise was less than twenty minutes at a brisk pace. Across the dike, a hiker followed a path overgrown with wild honeysuckle bushes. Turtles and unseen pond creatures plopped into the water with each footstep. Cool winds and trails wound through the Evarts property, past lily pads and trickling water, into woods that gobbled up summertime like an enchanted forest. From the high woods of Paradise, one could see the very top of Mount Ascutney. It almost touched the sky, towering over the rest of the granite hills (if one squinted) like the head of a proud father, arms outstretched, watching over this special domain. It was an ideal hiding place in the 1920s, where boys and girls could think high thoughts, try out phrases, experiment with daring ideas. Here, the Cox children could appreciate the family's glimmering past in one eyeful. And create their own visions of the future.

In this isolated New England setting, Archie grew up steeped in the family history of William M. Evarts: the lineal relationship to American statesman Roger Sherman; the famous speeches bound in leather on the bookcase; the town hall and church and public library that his great-grandfather had helped found in the 1800s. These not only shaped Archie's interest in history from the earliest days, but gave him "a strong sense of continuity."

Windsor was an idyllic setting for a boy to spend summers. It was made even more special by the weather-worn covered bridge that led from Windsor to Cornish, New Hampshire, just across the Connecticut River. Here in Cornish an enchanted community burst to life each summer, drawing within its folds some of the greatest literary-artistic figures of the late 1800s and early 1900s: the sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, who had once been commissioned by William M. Evarts to make a bust of Chief Justice Waite for the Supreme Court in Washington; the artist and illustrator Maxfield Parrish, who used Mount Ascutney as a background in choice paintings; the American novelist Winston Churchill, who set several books in the quiet New Hampshire town; and the famous New York judge Learned Hand, who was already becoming a legend by the 1920s. Archie's uncle, Maxwell Evarts Perkins, noted editor at Scribner's in New York who was discoverer, silent collaborator, and father figure to some of the greatest literary talent of the 1920s and 1930s--F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Thomas Wolfe--also settled into one of the six houses on the old Evarts estate each summer with his family, adding another spark to the tiny New England community. It was a world of creative thinkers and public success stories that left a permanent imprint in the minds of the Cox children.

When he wasn't hiking mountain trails and soaking up the outdoors in Windsor, Archie plunged into reading of all kinds--literature, history, poetry, light stories. Sunday nights (the maids' night off) were special occasions. The Cox children would gather together in the living room after supper, where they would select a favorite poem to recite under the flicker of a glass kerosene lamp. They sat beneath a portrait of Grandfather Perkins hung over the fireplace; he had been a promising art critic who helped found the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, but he was tragically killed in 1886 when his horses got spooked in a thunderstorm and crashed into a stone wall near Paradise.

Under Grandfather Perkins's stern gaze, Archie had started off as a "frail and nervous" child, according to his sister Betty. But with age he grew in confidence; his voice soon became "extremely loud" and certain. Archie's favorite poem came from the Home Book of Verse. He could deliver it with great style again and again by heart, even into old age:

What have you been for the last three year
That you haven't heard folks tell
How Jim Bludso passed in his checks
The night of the Prairie Belle?

It was a poem about the wreck of the Prairie Belle steamship on the Mississippi River, written by John Hay, Abraham Lincoln's private secretary and later secretary of state under Presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. The hero of the poem had two principles that guided him as a riverboat captain on the Mississippi. First, he would never let another steamboat pass him, because he wanted to be the best at what he did. Second, if the Prairie Belle ever took fire, he swore a thousand times that he would deliver each passenger safely to the shore, no matter what the costs. For a young Archie Cox, these two oaths of the rough-hewn riverboat engineer revealed a dogged virtue:

Through the hot, black breath of the burnin' boat
Jim Bludso's voice was heard
And they all had trust in his cussedness,
And knowed he would keep his word.
And sure's you're born, they all got off
Afore the smoke-stacks fell--
And Bludso's ghost went up alone
In the smoke of the Prairie Belle.

One cousin described Archie as a "loner." But this was not exactly the word. The lineup of the Cox children spanned sixteen years, making them actually two separate "generations": Archie (born in 1912); Betty (born 1913); Mary, called "Molly" (1916); followed by Rob (1919); Max (1922); Louis (1925); and Rowland (1928). The next oldest boy in the family, Rob, was seven years younger. With such an age gap, Archie frequently found himself climbing, hiking, and reading away the time by himself. His sisters, Betty and Molly, were his friends, but they did things that girls did in the 1920s--cutting out dolls, playing pencil-and-paper games. Archie's parents had bought him a collie back in Plainfield, but he was "the opposite of a boy devoted to his dog." Trips across the river to Cornish, where he could play tennis with boys his own age, were more his style. Sunday baseball games in Paradise with pickup teams of summer transplants were a favorite pastime. Girls were welcome; the shortage of shortstops made it pointless to discriminate.

Archie was "comfortable with people. And they were comfortable with him." He rarely got ruffled, even when intentionally provoked. His sisters were haunted by the fact that their father's name was Archibald, and flashed their tempers when friends recited the name with a stray inflection or a smirk. The only one in the family who "didn't seem to mind" was Archibald, Jr. He liked his name; he didn't worry about meaningless jokes.

From his father, Archie would inherit an old-fashioned work ethic; a tiny spark of wit (and an even deeper admiration of it in others); a gracious, polite demeanor; and a general love for newspaper headlines, action, and public events. From his mother, he would inherit less tangible qualities: an abundant willingness to accept; an interest in the creative side of life rather than the commercial world; an optimist's view of humanity, assuming the best of all who entered his doorway; a love for the outdoors; and a quiet Yankee reserve that in later years would be mistaken by those who did not know him for arrogance (when it came much closer to shyness).

From both parents, Archie would inherit an unusual merging of New England and New Jersey dialects. "We all have a queer accent," sister Molly would smile. It was precise and methodical. Lips were pursed. The tones were high-sounding, mellifluous, as if the speaker was reading from a book of old English verse while holding back any trace of sentiment or emotion. In the Cox family, emotions and exuberance and effusiveness were not paraded through the house. These were best left for private settings, places like the woods or the mountains.

For "Billy" Cox, a feel for history and an instinct toward pursuing worthwhile opportunities in life did not end when his family packed up their belongings each August and drove home from Vermont to New Jersey.

The house on 1010 Rahway Road in Plainfield where Archie spent much of his childhood was a long, low, white building with green shutters, a Dutch colonial custom-designed by the architectural firm of White and White. His father had it built in the early 1920s on a nine-acre plot with a hillside that had been used to grow potatoes during World War I. The house represented increasing profits from the senior Cox's law firm and corresponded with the arrival of a fifth child, Max, the only Cox child born in a hospital, because the house was unfinished.

Years later, Archie would preserve a vivid memory of this home, its seven bedrooms, oil furnace, claw-foot bathtubs, fireplaces, maids quarters, tennis court (his father liked to beat him and proclaim "Brother, your tail hangs behind!"), and chauffeur's apartment over the garage, all symbols of Roaring-Twenties wealth. Archie also remembered the presidential election of 1928, when his father brought home their first console radio (Archie himself had a tiny crystal set) to listen to the speeches of Al Smith, the Democratic presidential candidate running against Herbert Hoover. "He bought a big, heavy console," Cox remembered. "And I have a very vivid picture ... of my father and mother, myself and my sister Betty ... sitting in the living room, listening to the broadcasts of Al Smith's and maybe Hoover's speeches. And on the dining room chairs, shrouded in the dark would be sitting the maids.... I don't think they resented this. I think that the relations between my family and the `retainers' were very good. At least that's my picture. But the symbols of status were probably much more important than any ideas of status themselves."

Maids and nurses and chauffeurs were paid "New York wages" of $425 per month for the five of them, a tidy sum. But young Archie discovered that he was one of the only boys in their affluent section of Plainfield whose father was supporting a progressive Democrat (a Catholic, no less) for president, a fact that summed up his early political consciousness much more than the swelling ledger in the family bank book.

Life in Plainfield during the nonsummer months was a solid, regular existence. All children under nine ate "supper" (hot cereal with prunes or applesauce) at 5:30 and then went to bed. The older children were expected to sit down to dinner as soon as Archibald, Sr., walked in the door from the train station. Boys wore coats and ties; girls wore dresses (or, if they had already worn a dress earlier in the day, a "new dress"). The parents had one cocktail of vermouth and fruit juice, never more, never less. Then the maids served dinner. A typical meal consisted of soup; roast beef, chops, or lamb; two vegetables; and a pudding. After dinner the older children were allowed to read before going to bed, as long as they pulled up the covers and extinguished the lights by 8:00 sharp.

Archie found that he liked the sound of words, the flow and resonance of phrases carefully forged and sharpened by the writer. He liked to speak words almost as much as he liked to read them. But this posed certain hazards.

His first public speaking contest was at the Wardlaw School in Plainfield, a small private grade school that Archie rode to on a bicycle. The poem he had selected was "Farragut," about wooden Union warships going into Mobile Bay during the Civil War. Archie would never forget clenching his fists at the Wardlaw School, planting his feet, and reciting:

Farragut, Farragut,
Old Heart of Oak,
Daring Dave Farragut
Thunderbolt stroke ...

Then he stopped. "And I couldn't remember another word. I broke down completely as a tearful little boy."

By his teens, however, Archie had become more polished, more confident of his talents. His father was "terribly excited that I wouldn't be admitted to St. Paul's [prep school], because he had read an English composition of mine and found it filled with mistakes of spelling." Archibald, Sr., told his wife, "Well, the boy's a moron." But Archie wasn't worried. He "regarded it, and always regarded it, as an unnecessary flap." Still, it was enough of a flap, old letters reveal, that his father wrote directly to an administrator at St. Paul's School in April 1926. Reporting that young Archie was taking the entrance exams, his father conspicuously threw in some choice information: "I am told that, other things being equal, relationship to Alumni may count something in favor of a boy on the waiting list. If so, my boy can claim, in addition to his father and four uncles, a grandfather and five or six grand-uncles, and a Trustee in the generation before that." A representative of St. Paul's quickly wrote back reassuringly: "You are right in understanding that relationship to Alumni counts in a boy's favor when he is trying for admission to the School. Your boy should score heavily in this regard when the time comes."

Archie was safely admitted to St. Paul's in 1926. By this time, he had shaken much of the self-doubt that had plagued him as a boy. He could easily recite the saga of Admiral Farragut by heart.

Archie entered St. Paul's at age fourteen, receiving a thick dose of New England culture that he enjoyed immensely. St. Paul's was a private Episcopal boys' school outside of Concord, New Hampshire, sixty miles from Windsor, in the middle of a wooded, secluded, bucolic nowhere. There were English Tudor buildings, tennis courts, ponds with footbridges, geese, swans, and absolute solitude.

Archie's great-grandfather Perkins had helped found St. Paul's, and his grandfather had been one of the first students in the 1870s, so the Cox, Evarts, and Perkins names all carried a special ring amid the chiming bells of the Episcopal prep school grounds. So nicely did Archie adapt that his younger brother Rob was planning to follow in his footsteps, a fact that pleased Archie and gave his own enrollment a delightful aura of pathfinding and experimentation.

Archie enjoyed rubbing elbows with a swarm of teenage boys of his own vintage, many of whom were sons of alumni. Along with the other third formers in the fall of 1926, Archie lived in an alcove in the "Old School" building. In this spartan setting, each boy had nothing but a bed and a bureau, some clothes on the floor until a master came along, and a ready comb. "It was perfectly pleasant," recalled Archie's classmate and lifelong friend, Dr. Thomas W. Clark. "Sleeping and getting up in the morning is what you did."

As soon as the morning bells went off at an ungodly hour, the boys raced down, took showers, ate breakfast, went to chapel, and got ready for classes. In the New England winters, it was still dark as they dashed across the dimly lit brick paths for lessons in Greek and trigonometry. Part of the unspoken challenge was to learn to face adversity head-on. "We took cold showers in the basement," Clark remembered. "You were sissy to [do otherwise] ... even in the middle of winter," he explained. "There was plenty of hot water--we just didn't use it."

Boys wore a coat and tie to classes and donned a stiff collar every night for dinner. They attended chapel once a day, twice on Sundays. Immediately after students communed with God, infractions were read out loud at the "Big Study." Violations such as "up after lights," "swimming at night," and "out after check-in" were announced sternly by the rector, Dr. Samuel S. Drury, who was considered God's direct spokesman, and demerits were levied.

For a boy who was used to going to bed at eight o'clock back in Plainfield, the hours at St. Paul's seemed long and difficult. Archie wrote home: "Tell Betty it's no fun sitting up so late, until 9:00." Archie's classmate, William G. Foulke, remembered that hardships nevertheless created a bond: "It was a rigorous life--getting up when the sun was just coming up; it was cold; we were living in very little quarters. Circumstances like these bring people together."

The boys attending St. Paul's were hardly children of the struggling lower classes. The school was a WASPy affair, for the most part. Two Vanderbilts enrolled during Archie's entering year. Parents assumed that they were sending their children to the "best school in the English-speaking world." By and large, they were offspring of the rich and powerful in the great Northeast, who recognized that if their children were going to letter in college sports, make Phi Beta Kappa at Ivy League schools, run banks, head corporations, lead great law firms, become great diplomats, and make names for themselves in government and national politics, they had better learn rigorous habits in the earliest years.

Despite all these high-minded parental goals, a group of 428 boys had a way of softening the structure. Some boys tinkered with radios. Some wrote for the school magazine. Club football, hockey, baseball, and crew were institutions. "Teas" were a regular event at the homes of masters. Canoeing on the lakes and streams on campus was a popular pastime. By December, the ice was thick enough to skate on Mill Pond, "Big Turkey," and "the Everglades." There were other diversions. "We would go swimming in the quarry," recalled Tom Clark, "which was totally illegal. We would have to entice a janitor who had a car to take us there. It was no better than swimming in the lakes that the school owned. But it was illegal, so we did it."

St. Paul's sponsored one dance a year. Boys would invite girls from home, usually Long Island or New Jersey, to dance fox-trots and waltzes. Archie's only recollection of a date was Elizabeth "Zibby" Fiske from Plainfield, who was more comfortable sitting on the porch on Rahway Road with his sisters, but reluctantly made the trip to New Hampshire to see how prep school boys danced.

Archie was viewed as "a bit more intellectually inclined" than many of his classmates. His sandy, almost blond hair was always cut short. At six feet tall, he was skinny, even "gangly." He was known neither for his athletic prowess nor his "sartorial" stylishness. He was nevertheless listed as a backup left tackle on his intramural Isthmian football team. And he was a passable enough baseball player that he pitched an occasional intramural game.

Still, athletics were not what had attracted Archie to St. Paul's. Nor did they keep him there. During fourth form (tenth grade), while Archie's roommate Edgar Rulon-Miller was busy perfecting the art of smoking cigarettes up the chimney to avoid the well-trained noses of the masters, Archie began developing his own interests. A young master named John Mayher frequently invited a group of boys to carry books to his room in New Upper "after lights," so they could read aloud. Here Archie and his roommates began expanding their curiosity and tastes in literature. They read H. H. Munro's work written under the pseudonym Saki, mostly light prose and irreverent political satire. They consumed the offbeat 1920s newspaper column archy and mehitabel featuring an alley cat, Mehitabel, and a cockroach named Archy (much to Archie Cox's delight), who climbed onto a typewriter at night and punched out dialogue in lowercase letters because he was too small to engineer the shift button. Typical of Archy-the-cockroach's astute observations on life was the following rumination, in lower case:

if you get gloomy just
take an hour off and sit
and think how
much better this world
is than hell
of course it wont cheer
you up if
you expect to go there

Archie soon thrived at St. Paul's. He joined the "Greek Gang," a group of students who studied classical Greek and played intramural sports together. He teetered "on the edge of trouble," ducking into the dining hall for formal meals just before the heavy Gothic doors swung closed. He was regularly chastised for sporting a short, almost stubbly hairstyle that Dr. Drury viewed as much too short.

Archie was never one of the top boys in the third or fourth forms, a fact published conspicuously in "half term rankings" in the school magazine. But he won the Keep Prize in English History for an essay that he signed under the nom de plume "William M. Evarts." By the end of fourth form, in 1928, he had joined the Propylean Literary Society, where he was judged best speaker in two separate debates. In one winning argument, Cox supported the affirmative on the issue "Resolved: That the war debt of the Allies to the United States ought to be cancelled by the United States." In the second, he argued the negative on the proposition "Resolved: That the United States should enter the League of Nations."

In the spring of 1928, Frances Cox wrote to Dr. Drury: "It is lovely to have Archie at home again and to see him so well, and so happy. We feel you are doing so much for him at St. Paul's, and that he is learning a great deal besides lessons in books."

By sixth form (senior year), Archie was beginning to achieve a new level of confidence--just as it was time to leave. He was listed as one of the select members of the sixth form who "read the lessons at Sunday Evening" chapel. With his large, strong hands he excelled at racket sports and was appointed to the Squash and Tennis Committees. He argued against Groton School in a major interschool debate, taking the negative on the question of whether the U.S.S.R. should be recognized by the United States, and "swinging the tide" in favor of a St. Paul's victory. By this time, he was given the nickname "Solicitor" by his classmates, an undeniable tribute. "The Six Rankings" listed him, academically, as one of the "leaders of the entire school."

More important than this scholastic achievement, a reputation was starting to follow Archie Cox. "He was an independent," said his friend Charlie Kirkland. "Like all boys' schools, there were lots of cliques. He was on the edge of them. It was a hard role to play. Most kids had a herd instinct. But he didn't need it."

This emerging perception of Archie as someone who "forged his own course" led the rector to appoint Archie and Joseph "Indian Joe" Barker to the Student Council, a distinct honor at St. Paul's. Some skeptical friends saw an unflattering angle to Cox's appointment. It was widely known in the dormitories and locker rooms that there was "a good deal of illegal goings-on" in Twenty House. "Constantly," said Charlie Kirkland, who balked at describing the activity in any further detail. "Certainly he [Archie] and everyone else knew." The illegal activity that everyone knew about, including the administration, was smoking and gambling, a "moving crap game." Much of it involved friends of Archie. As Kirkland and other residents of Twenty House saw Dr. Drury's careful selection of Cox, "Drury put him on the council because he thought he could get information."

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