Donald L. Cox AKA Mister Happy Face

Black Panthers leader, 74

March 21, 2011

Donald L. Cox, 74, a member of the Black Panther Party high command who earned a moment of celebrity in 1970 when he spoke at a Leonard Bernstein fund-raising party in Manhattan made notorious by the writer Tom Wolfe in his article "Radical Chic: That Party at Lenny's," died Feb. 19 at his home in Camps-sur-l'Agly, France.

His wife, Barbara Cox Easley, did not specify a cause. He had lived abroad since the early 1970s, when he fled the United States after being implicated in a Baltimore murder.

Known as D.C., Mr. Cox, who lived in San Francisco at the time, held the title of field marshal with the Panthers, the socialist movement founded by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale in Oakland, Calif., in 1966. Mr. Cox lived in San Francisco at the time.

He also served the Panthers as a spokesman, and in January 1970 he appeared with a handful of Panthers and about 80 other guests at the Bernstein apartment on Park Avenue in Manhattan.

The occasion was a fund-raiser for the legal defense of the New York Panther 21 - 19 men and two women indicted on charges of plotting to kill police officers and blow up several sites, including Midtown stores, police precinct houses, and the New York Botanical Garden.

In June 1970, Wolfe's article was published in New York magazine. A skewering of Bernstein and his guests, it advanced Wolfe's career as a proponent of the so-called new journalism. It was reviled by Mr. Cox.

The event raised $10,000, Charlotte Curtis reported in the New York Times. In May 1971, all 21 of the accused Panthers were acquitted.

After a warrant was issued for his arrest, Mr. Cox left the country, first living in Algeria and then in France.

He met Easley, who lives in Philadelphia, in the 1960s, and though they had not lived together since he left the country, she said, they married in 2006 so she would have legal standing in his affairs.