Mr. Cox, a former solicitor general of the United States, was an expert on labor law and the author of several books on legal matters. He often took leaves from the faculty of Harvard Law School to serve in federal government posts. In 1980 he became chairman of Common Cause, the public affairs lobby, and held that position until 1992.
Mr. Cox took over the Watergate investigation on May 18, 1973, and was dismissed five months later on President Richard M. Nixon’s orders.
The highest federal position Mr. Cox held was solicitor general, representing the government before the Supreme Court. He was appointed to the position, the third highest in the Department of Justice, by President John F. Kennedy. He had previously served as a speechwriter and adviser to Mr. Kennedy in the Senate and in his campaign for the presidency.
Mr. Cox’s dramatic but relatively brief time as the special Watergate prosecutor came about largely because of his friendship with a former law student, Elliot L. Richardson.
In late April 1973, Nixon announced the forced departure from his administration of four top- level appointees after they were swept up in the Watergate affair. The scandals had begun with the June 1972 burglary of the Democratic National Committee’s offices in the Watergate office complex at the height of the president’s re-election campaign.
Among those forced to resign was Attorney General Richard G. Kleindienst. Nixon chose Mr. Richardson to succeed Mr. Kleindienst, specifying that “if he should consider it appropriate, he has the authority to name a special supervising prosecutor for matters arising out of” the Watergate case