Spencer L. Coxe, 93, former executive director of what is now the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, died June 7 of respiratory failure at his home in Awbury Arboretum in Germantown.
Mr. Coxe was head of the local ACLU from 1952 to 1979 and during those years had frequent conflicts with Frank Rizzo – as police captain, Police Commissioner and Mayor – over civil liberties issues and the role of the Police Advisory Board.
He also was instrumental in the invalidation of the state Defective Delinquent Act in 1978, which resulted in the release of some 800 persons who had been unjustly incarcerated.
After retiring from the ACLU, he taught at Antioch University Philadelphia and at Drexel University. Earlier he had been a part-time faculty member at what is now Richard Stockton College of New Jersey and Temple University.
Born in West Philadelphia, Mr. Coxe graduated from Westtown School and received a bachelor’s degree from Yale University and a master’s degree from Harvard University, 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.
For more than two decades, he was a member of the Bach Choir of Bethlehem. He enjoyed hiking, canoeing and gardening.
Mr. Coxe is survived by his wife, Elize; sons Theodore, Christopher and Lawrence; three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 19, at the Germantown Friends Meeting, 45 W. Coulter St. in Germantown.
Memorial donations may be made to the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the ACLU, P.O. Box 40008, Philadelphia, PA 19106. – WF