John Doar (right) and U.S. marshals escorting James Meredith to class at the University of Mississippi
John Andrew Doar|
December 3, 1921
New Richmond, Wisconsin
November 11, 2014 (aged 92)|
New York City, New York
UC Berkeley School of Law
John Andrew Doar (December 3, 1921 – November 11, 2014) was an American lawyer and senior counsel with the law firm Doar Rieck Kaley & Mack in New York City. He had a notable role as Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights from 1961 to 1965 and as head of the division from 1965 until 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 was born in New Richmond, Wisconsin, the son of Mae and William Doar. In 1940, Doar graduated from St. Paul Academy and Summit School in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He served in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II and was a pilot. He was a graduate of Princeton University (A.B. 1944) and the University of California-Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law (LL.B. 1949). From 1950 to 1960, Doar then worked in his family's law firm in New Richmond, Wisconsin.
Civil rights career
Doar served as First Assistant and then Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in the U.S. Dept. of Justice, from 1960 to 1967, during which time he was involved in several of the most significant events of the American civil rights movement. In 1961 he operated in Montgomery, Alabama, along with his assistant, John Seigenthaler, to protect the Freedom Riders. In 1962, he 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, gaining conviction by an all-white jury in Alabama. In 1963, he calmed an angry mob after the assassination of civil rights leader Medgar Evers, murdered outside his home.
Doar prosecuted the federal case for civil rights violations against the people who were accused of murdering Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner, young civil rights workers in Mississippi. He had earlier 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.
He returned to service in 1974, appointed as Special 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. He then started a law firm in New York City: Doar, Rieck, Kaley, & Mack.
Doar died in New York City, New York from congestive heart failure, aged 92. He is survived by his daughter Gael Walsh, Michael Doar, Robert Doar a former Commissioner of the New York City Human Resources Administration and Burke Doar.
Representation in other media
- The 1988 film Mississippi Burning drew from the murders of the three civil rights workers.
- Episode from the Discovery Channel series, "US Marshals: Mission in Mississippi" (1997). Interview with Doar about his role in Justice Department effort to enroll James Meredith at University of Mississippi in 1962. Doar and Chief US Marshal James McShane were given the job of enrolling Meredith by Attorney General Robert Kennedy.
- In the 2014 film Selma, he is portrayed by Alessandro Nivola.
Legacy and honors
- Roy Reed (November 11, 2014). "John Doar, Federal Lawyer on Front Lines Against Segregation, Dies at 92". The New York Times. p. A25.
- "biography". Doar, Rieck, Kaley, & Mack. Archived from the original on June 1, 2012. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
- Jimmy Breslin (March 26, 1965). "Changing the South". New York Herald-Tribune. reprinted in Clayborne Carson; et al., eds. (2003). Reporting Civil Rights: American journalism, 1963-1973. Library of America. pp. 361–366. Retrieved 20 July 2012.
- "Introduction to John Doar Oral History". Washington University at St. Louis. Archived from the original on 15 December 2012. Retrieved 20 July 2012.
- John Fleming (21 November 2010). "The quiet authority of John Doar, a towering figure of the civil rights movement". The Anniston Star. Archived from the original on 28 September 2011.
- "2012 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients". UPI. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
- Linder, Douglas O. (Winter 2002). "Bending Toward Justice: John Doar and the Mississippi Burning Trial". Mississippi Law Journal. 72 (2). Archived from the original on 2005-07-13.
- John Doar (1997). "The Work of the Civil Rights Division in Enforcing Voting Rights Under the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960" (PDF). Florida State University Law Review. 25 (1). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-03-16.
- "Eyes on the Prize: Interview with John Doar". Washington University at St. Louis. Retrieved 20 August 2011.