John Doar dead: Barack Obama pays tribute to leading civil rights lawyer of the Sixties

He famously escorted black student James Meredith into University of Mississippi in 1962 and oversaw the enforcement of the 1964 Civil Rights Act

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The Independent Online

Barack Obama has labelled the late Justice Department attorney and influential civil rights activist John Doar “one of the bravest American lawyers of his or any era” after he died on Tuesday from congestive heart failure.

He was 92 years old.

Among his achievements during the civil rights movement of the Sixties, the New Yorker famously escorted black student James Meredith into the newly integrated University of Mississippi in 1962 – an event that signified one of the biggest turning points of the movement.

Doar was the assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, which investigated complaints of racial discrimination across the South of the United States, until 1967.

In his role, he oversaw the enforcement of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – two landmark pieces of legislation that outlawed discrimination based on race, colour, religion, sex, or national origin in the United States and gave everyone equal voting rights.


He also led the federal prosecution of 18 people charged with the murders of civil rights activists Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney in Mississippi. He won convictions against seven of them.

“As the face of the Justice Department in the segregated South, John escorted James Meredith to the University of Mississippi. He walked alongside the Selma-to-Montgomery March. He laid the groundwork for the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act,” Obama, who awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012, said in a statement.

“Time and time again, John put his life on the line to make real our country’s promise of equal rights for all.”

“Without John's courage and perseverance, Michelle and I might not be where we are today,” he added.

After several years in private practice, Doar returned to government chief counsel to the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate scandal.

He was among those who recommended the impeachment of President Nixon in 1974.

His son, Robert, confirmed news of his death to the New York Times.