John Doar

3 Dec 1921
11 Nov 2014
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John Michael 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.

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 was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the son of Mae and William Doar.

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.

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 lynching 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.

Doar left the government in 1967.

He went into private practice and worked for Bedford Stuyvesant Development Corporation.

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.

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