John Doar

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John Doar
James Meredith OleMiss.jpg
John Doar (right) and U.S. Marshals escorting James Meredith to class at the University of Mississippi.
Born (1921-12-03) December 3, 1921 (age 92)
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Alma mater Princeton University
Boalt Hall School of Law
Occupation Lawyer

John Michael Doar (born December 3, 1921) is an American lawyer and currently senior counsel with the law firm Doar Rieck Kaley & Mack in New York. He had a notable role as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights from 1960 to 1967, during the civil rights years of the administrations of presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. He led the government's response in events such as the admission and protection of James Meredith as the first black student to the University of Mississippi, as well as the evolving response to the civil rights movement promoting integration and voter registration in the South.

Doar is a graduate of Princeton University (A.B. 1944) and the University of California-Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law (LL.B. 1949). His son, Robert Doar is a former Commissioner of the New York City Human Resources Administration.

Civil rights career[edit]

He served as First Assistant and then Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in the U.S. Dept. of Justice, from 1960 to 1967,[1] during which time he was involved in several of the most significant events of the American civil rights movement. In 1961 Doar operated in Montgomery, Alabama along with his assistant, John Seigenthaler, to protect the freedom riders.[2] In 1962, Doar confronted Ross Barnett over Barnett's attempts to prevent James Meredith from entering the segregated University of Mississippi. He also prosecuted Collie Leroy Wilkins for federal civil rights violations in the murder of Viola Liuzzo,[3] gaining conviction by an all-white jury in Alabama. In 1963, Doar confronted and calmed an angry mob after the assassination of civil rights leader Medgar Evers, murdered outside his home.[4]

He prosecuted the federal case for civil rights violations against the people who were accused of lynching Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner,[4] young civil rights workers in Mississippi. Doar later contributed to drafting the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which Lyndon Johnson signed to try to enforce constitutional rights for all citizens. In March, 1965, Doar was the first to arrive in Montgomery, Alabama during the third of the Selma to Montgomery marches. He walked into Montgomery half a block ahead of the march in his capacity as Assistant Attorney General.[2]

Private career[edit]

Doar left the government in the later part of the Johnson administration. He went into private practice.

He returned to service in 1974, appointed as Chief Counsel for the United States House Committee on the Judiciary, which was then investigating the Watergate scandal and preparing articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon.[1]

Representation in other media[edit]

Legacy and honors[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Doar, Rieck, Kaley, & Mack biography". Retrieved July 20, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Jimmy Breslin (March 26, 1965). "Changing the South". New York Herald-Tribune.  reprinted in Clayborne Carson et al., ed. (2003). Reporting Civil Rights: American journalism, 1963-1973. Library of America. pp. 361–366. Retrieved 20 July 2012. 
  3. ^ "Introduction to John Doar Oral History". Washington University at St. Louis. Retrieved 20 July 2012. 
  4. ^ a b John Fleming (21 November 2010). "The quiet authority of John Doar, a towering figure of the civil rights movement". The Anniston Star. 
  5. ^ "2012 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients". UPI. Retrieved July 20, 2012. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Linder, Douglas O. (Winter 2002). "Bending Toward Justice: John Doar and the Mississippi Burning Trial". Mississippi Law Journal 72 (2).  (available online)
  • John Doar (1997). "The Work of the Civil Rights Division in Enforcing Voting Rights Under the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960". Florida State University Law Review 25 (1).  (available online)
  • "Eyes on the Prize: Interview with John Doar". Washington University at St. Louis. Retrieved 20 August 2011. 

External links[edit]