President Barack Obama awards a 2012 Presidential Medal of Freedom to former U.S. Assistant Attorney General John Doar, who ran the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. May 29, 2012.
Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Federal civil rights lawyer John Doar dead at 92


John Doar, a federal lawyer who fought against segregation, died Tuesday of congestive heart failure at his home in New York City at age 92. 

Doar, who served as the First Assistant and then Attorney General for the Justice’s Department civil rights division from 1960 to 1967, played a crucial role in advancing race relations in the segregated south.

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Some of his most notable work includes riding with and protecting the Freedom Riders in Montgomery, Alabama in 1961, escorting James Meredith as he integrated the University of Mississippi in 1962, and investigating the murder of three civil rights workers in Mississippi in 1964. 

The 6-foot-2 Doar famously stood up to armed police in a face-off with civil rights activists, who were hurling bricks and bottles at officers, in Jackson, Miss. “My name is John Doar — D-O-A-R,” he yelled to the crowd, according to The New York Times. “I’m from the Justice Department, and anybody here knows what I stand for is right.

President Barack Obama, who awarded Doar with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012, said he’s “one of the bravest Americans lawyers of his or any era” in an official White House statement.

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“He laid the groundwork for the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act,” the president continued. “John put his life on the line to make real our country’s promise of equal rights for all.”

Civil Rights

Federal civil rights lawyer John Doar dead at 92