Spencer Coxe Papers

Collection ID: 
Acc. 908
1 linear foot
Collecting Area: 



Spencer Coxe was Executive Director of the Greater Philadelphia Branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) from 1952-79 and continued to serve the ACLU as a member of the board, starting in 1983.

Quoted in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, Dec. 22, 1978 Coxe stated: "I think probably the one triumph we’ve had that brings me the most personal satisfaction is the invalidation of Pennsylvania’s defective delinquent statute and the release of 800 men from Dallas state prison. " The law permitted judges to sentence persons deemed to have criminal tendencies and defective intelligence to prison for indeterminate periods. Coxe further recalled a man who at 26 had spent 11 years in jail for the theft of a bicycle when he was 15, had brought the law to the ACLU’s attention in the early 1960s. Material that relates to the activity to repeal the defective delinquent statute forms the series Photocopies (III).


This is a collection of materials generated primarily by Spencer Coxe in his capacity both as a board member of the ACLU and earlier, as executive director of this agency. It touches on three primary areas: (1) police review boards in their 1980s-1990s incarnations; (2) ordinances advanced in Philadelphia in (a) 70s to mandate detailed procedures for police to follow on receipt of complaints, etc. and in (b) 90s to set up a new police review board; and (3) the question of "defective delinquents," or individuals who were incarcerated for indeterminate lengths without having been convicted of a crime.

As noted above, the police review and police procedures’ ordinances material cover two distinct periods. The ordinances to stipulate procedures relating to complaints about police cover 1977 to 1980. The effort to revive the police review or advisory board focuses on 1992-94 period.

The above mentioned unsuccessful campaign in the late 1970s to mandate police procedures for complaints against police is well documented here.

One small folder includes a sampling of writings by Spencer Coxe himself. These range from 1965 to the 1990s.

The successful effort to repeal Pennsylvania’s "Defective Delinquent Act" in 1968 led to the release of 800 men from maximum security prison. As noted above, this ACLU victory was probably the sweetest for Spencer Coxe. It is documented here with photocopies of: correspondence, clippings, memos, forms and publications.

It should be noted that the Urban Archives is the repository for the ACLU records, with numerous accessions already on the premises. Finding aids for some of the ACLU accessions are available. Some of these materials are closed.

In addition to numerous ACLU accessions, Urban Archives also contains the records for the original Police Advisory Board, 1958-69.


The collection is organized into three series:

I. Administration
II. Photocopies
III. Photographs

Series I: Administration. Materials include correspondence, memos, articles, drafts, minutes and agenda. Beyond general administration (minutes and agenda) relating to the Coalition for Police Accountability, are two sub-series, programs and documents. The programs sub-series is a catch-all title for materials on programs, policies or issues dealt with by the ACLU or its cohorts (viz. Coalition for Police Accountability). These include use of force by police, drugs, police advisory or review boards, and ordinances. The documents sub-series provides documentation supporting the above programs, issues, etc., i.e. reports, ordinances, publications and statements. One folder in this series bears copies of documents produced by Spencer Coxe.

Series II: Photocopies. Materials include photocopies of correspondence, memos and newspaper clippings, dating primarily from 1966-68, documenting the successful ACLU push to free 800 "defective delinquents," many of whom had been incarcerated without having been convicted of any crime, all for indeterminate periods, some for over 10 years. Some photocopies appear to have originated at the ACLU Archives at Princeton University Photocopies are filed as they are received.

Series III: Photographs. One photo, apparently taken in China in 1946, has been transferred to the Miscellaneous Photo Collections (PC-49), to folder 7-3.




1 Minutes, agenda, etc. 1992-1985, 1995
2 Programs 1986
3-4 Programs- Police Review Board 1992
5 Programs- Affirmative Action n.d.
6 Programs- Ordinances 1980-1977
7 Ordinances (1) 1994-1992, 1986
8 Ordinances (2) 1993, 1992
9 Ordinances (3) 1993, April-January
10 Ordinances (4) 1992, 1986
11 Programs 1992, 1986, 1982
12 Programs- Drugs and Police (1) n.d.
13 Drugs and Police (2) 1992-1988
14 Drugs and Police (3) 1993-1988
15 Programs- Use of force 1988, 1989
16 Programs- Inspector General 1990-1984
17 Programs 1982
18 Programs- Internal Complaint Process 1987-1980
19 Documents- Coxe 1990s-1965
20 Documents n.d.
21 Documents- Review Board Surveys- Phila. ?, 1986, ?
22 Documents- Review Board Surveys Non-Phladelphia (1) 1986, 1990-1992
23 Documents- Review Board Surveys Non- Philadelphia (2) 1993
24 Documents- 1987


25 Photocopies (1) 1966, April –October; 1956
26 Photocopies (2) 1966, October-1968, August 27 Photocopies (3) 1966
28 Photocopies (4) 1966, 1967


29 China 1946 (Removed to the Miscellaneous Photo Collections (PC-49), folder 7-3)