Archibald Cox stands out in American legal history as a leader of tremendous courage, expertise, and integrity. Widely known for his role as special
prosecutor during Watergate, Cox served in a variety of federal-government positions from the 1940s to the mid-1960s. He later taught at Harvard Law
School and led Common Cause, a citizens lobbying group focused on government accountability.
This oral-history interview focuses on Cox's tenure as solicitor general from 1961 to 1965, when he argued many landmark civil-rights cases before the
Supreme Court. Since 1870, the presidents of the United States have appointed solicitors general to argue for the government in cases appearing in the
Supreme Court. A leading figure in the Department of Justice, the solicitor general is considered among the most prestigious positions for a practicing
lawyer in the United States.
The interview with Cox was conducted by legal scholar and law professor Thomas Hilbink in June 2000, four years before Cox's death. The
Supreme Court Historical Society funded the interview as part of its ongoing commitment to incorporate oral history into the history of the Supreme
The interview is one of several with key Supreme Court figures in the collection of Columbia University Libraries' Oral History Research Office. Other
notable interviews concerning legal history in the archive include prominent lawyer and former secretary of state Dean Acheson, Supreme Court Justices
Thurgood Marshall, Felix Frankfurter, and Robert H. Jackson, and Judge Billings Learned Hand, who hired Archibald Cox as his law clerk when Cox was
freshly graduated from Harvard Law School.
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