Cox will receive the honor on May 17, his 86th birthday, at BC's annual President's Circle Dinner in McElroy Commons. He is the second individual to be honored with the award; the first was former US Senate Majority Leader and Ambassador to Japan Michael Mansfield in 1996.
The O'Neill Award is named for the late 1936 Boston College alumnus, whose career in politics culminated in a nine-year tenure as speaker of the United States House of Representatives (1977-86). It honors individuals for exemplary public service consistent with O'Neill's legacy, which the University holds as an ideal for its student body.
Cox graduated from Harvard Law School in 1937 and began his career at the Boston law firm of Ropes, Gray, Best, Coolidge & Rugg. During World War II, he served with the National Defense Board and in the Office of the Solicitor General. After the war, he returned to Harvard Law School as a professor and stayed until 1961, when he was named solicitor general in the Kennedy Administration, overseeing all government cases before the Supreme Court. He returned to the Harvard law faculty in 1965.
In May 1973, Cox was called into the national spotlight by Attorney General Elliot Richardson, who appointed him special Watergate prosecutor. When the contemporaneous US Senate investigation revealed the existence of audio tapes President Richard Nixon had recorded in the Oval Office, Cox joined in subpoenaing them.
After two appeals of the subpoena were turned down, Nixon offered to provide written summaries of the tapes in October. When Cox refused, Nixon ordered Richardson to fire him. Richardson refused to carry out the order and resigned, as did his deputy, William Ruckelshaus. Solicitor General Robert Bork complied and Cox was dismissed in what came to be known as the "Saturday night massacre."
Cox then returned to Harvard, where he remains a professor emeritus . He also serves as a visiting professor at Boston University Law School.
Cox was recommended for the honor by a committee that includes Merrill Lynch & Co. Managing Director Thomas J. Casey, Trustee Associate Charles Ferris, Trustee Associate Anne P. Jones, Trustee Michael D. Jones, and Boston College Senior Vice President James P. McIntyre.
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