American Civil Liberties Union Marks Passing of Former Greater Philadelphia Chapter Executive Director Spencer L. Coxe

July 12, 2011 12:00 am

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PHILADELPHIA – The American Civil Liberties Union recognizes the significant contribution of Spencer L. Coxe, 93, who passed away last month. Coxe was the former executive director of what is now the ACLU of Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the Pennsylvania ACLU affiliate.

Under Coxe’s leadership, from 1952 to 1979, the Philadelphia ACLU office had frequent conflicts with Police Commissioner – and later, Mayor – Frank Rizzo over civil liberties issues and the role of the Police Advisory Board.

A staunch advocate for criminal justice reform, Coxe also led the effort that eventually overturned the state’s Defective Delinquent Act in 1978, which resulted in the release of some 800 unjustly incarcerated prisoners.

Born in West Philadelphia, Mr. Coxe earned a bachelor’s degree at Yale University in 1940 and a master’s degree at Harvard University in 1941, both in history. A Quaker, he served in World War II as a conscientious objector and worked at a forestry camp in western Massachusetts. Later, from 1946 to 1949, he worked with the Friends Ambulance Unit in China and, from 1949 to 1952, did postwar relief work with the American Friends Service Committee in Austria.

The family has asked that memorial donations be made to the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, P.O. Box 40008, Philadelphia, PA 19106.

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