Remembering John Doar, an Email Discussion
November, 2014

November 11, 2014

Judy Richardson: So sorry to hear this. Doar, particularly in his later years, clearly and often revealed a genuine sense of guilt, saying he felt he hadn't done enough during those years. Possibly true. Yet, he did more than most and his role was really important to so many of us.

It was great hearing Dorie Ladner, at the SNCC 50th, tell the story that he was too modest to tell about his crucial role at the Medgar Evers funeral.

The quote in his obit really has relevance today: "Countless black citizens in the South couldn't vote. They were second-class citizens from cradle to grave. The discrimination was terrible, brutal. And to think, you know, that's over. It's done," he said.

If only...


David Dennis: He was and will always be a "GREAT HJUMAN BEING". I clearly remember his role at Medgar's funeral. There are parts of that story that only two people will ever know. He did more than the eyes could see.

[See Medgar's Funeral & End of Jackson Movement for background.]


Julian Bond: This is a loss to us all!


Bruce Hartford: Truth to tell, I've always felt pretty hostile to the DoJ regarding the role they played back in the '60s. And I included John Doar in that feeling. But I've seen at reunions that other Freedom Movement veterans treated him as if he too were a Movement veteran. So my question is, do you think we should add his name to the In Memory list on the CRMVets website?


Julian Bond: I think so. He seemed to me to be a good guy.


Jim Marshall: He was a brave soul who knew what had to be done and never flinched in the face of brutality and injustice. His role in the Civil Rights Division of the U. S. Department of Justice as the lead field lawyer for Assistant Attorney General Burke Marshall and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy was critical in establishing the case for a pattern and practice of racial discrimination in the Deep South.


Judy Richardson: I do feel he was one of the good guys and was genuine. He fought the good fight on many levels (and, personally, was the only govt. person to give us his home phone number, among many other things). The postings on the SNCC list rightfully give him priase.

BUT — I think the "In Memoriam" section should be reserved to those who were (for lack of a better term) "Freedom Fighters"; I wouldn't include media and government folks, as righteous as they may have been.


Charlie Cobb: My feeling exactly.


Courtland Cox: Judy, I think we should send a note to his family expressing the SLP condolences.


Joyce Ladner: I agree that we should find a way to express our condolences. As one of the "local people" my experience was that the good guys were almost nonexistent. John Doar was a good guy and in a class by himself.

Bruce, Why were you hostile toward John Doar? I felt that Burke Marshall was remote and not particularly empathetic to our cause at times but not so for John Doar.

I have never seen posts on the "In Memoriam" page by non-movement people. Do others post on the page?


Judy Richardson: There was a really relevant quote from Doar, included in the AP obit (as it appeared in the Bridgeport, Connecticut Post): "Countless black citizens in the South couldn't vote. They were second- class citizens from cradle to grave. The discrimination was terrible, brutal. And to think, you know, that's over. It's done, ' he said".

Ah, if only...


Mary Britting: Yes to your "if only ..." Judy. Especially here in Georgia. One outspoken Georgia legislator began a registration drive in 2014 and signed up more than 85,000 new voters in the state. The GA Secretary of State, the Dishonorable Brian Kemp, did not process about half of these claiming suspicion of voter fraud. The outspoken legislator is Stacey Abrams, the African American Minority Leader in the State House. We are lucky to have her but our champions face daunting opposition. Many black and poor citizens in this state are newly disenfranchised. Oh, did I mention we are required to present a state issued ID if we do get through the registration process?


Bruce Hartford: I never had any personal dealings with John Doar at all, I don't believe I ever met him during my time in the South. All I knew of him is that he worked for the DoJ. That's why I asked, because many Freedom Movement veterans who did have personal dealings with him express positive feelings about him. From what you all have said, it sounds like he was a good guy.

But I take Judy's point that our "In Memory" page should be reserved our own.

Our "In Memory" page only lists Freedom Movement activists (staff, local, volunteers). But anyone who knew someone on the list can post a memory or tribute about that person. We don't, however, post news media obituaries, only personal memories by people who had a direct personal contact.


Larry Rubin: He was the only DOJ official that at least tried to give us some level of protection, and he faced a lot of negative heat from the Kennedy Administration for his attitude. I wasn't there, but I've heard that at some location in the South, he himself stood between a mob of angry whites and people who were either demonstrating or lined up to vote.

Does anybody know more about this incident?

[Probably referring to the incident at Medgar Ever's funeral.]

Once, when I was pulled over by a deputy sheriff, I leaned over and turned the knob on one of those CBs we had for a while. I told the Deputy that John Doar was on the other end, listening. He arrested me anyway, but for a hot moment he looked kinda worried. He certainly knew who John Doar was.


Bernice Reagon: Testimonials from those who had personal contact or experiences with John Doar as one who was directly accessible would be important to share in the 21st century. It would maybe open up another component of support and participation. It might demonstrate expanded ways to build links and bridges...

I too appreciate that the "In Memoriam" section be reserved by 'on the ground organizers and active participants.'

November 12, 2014


Geri Augusto: Thanks for the discussion, in this thread, of John Doar, upon his passing.

As one who has "read about" but did not witness, nothing beats the contextualized (in plain English) analysis and views from SNCC members about who was what, when and why. In the age of "selfies" (literally and metaphorically), this exposure to truths is for me and probably others, priceless.


Larry Rubin: Later, John Doar was hired as the director of the special committee of Congress that drafted articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon. It was primarily his work that forced Nixon to resign.


Bernice Reagon: I see Doar as more than a 'good guy,' he did his job as he understood it from his position and it made a difference. As we share the story of our prolonged struggle, it is important that we acknowledge the stances held by people where they worked. It is the best way to help share the story of our struggle in all it's complexities. Blurring lines with actions in a new century, does not teach the importance of what Doar did from the ground he stood on. John Doar's name was known to us because of the way he defined and carried out his responsibilities. He stood out because he was rare. It is good to be reading this discussion this morning.


Judy Richardson: Thanks, Bernice! What a great framing of (the few folks like) John Doar who went beyond the usual bureaucratic responses. Your line: "... the importance of what Doar did from the ground he stood on" makes a critical point, and it's one I'll remember.


James Marshall: I found what he did very positive for the movement and the country. His work with the Civil Rights Division was outstanding and he was a strong link between the movement and the Department of Justice. I am sure many movement people will have many positive comments to make about John Doar as I will also in the book I am working on now.


[If you were part of the Southern Freedom Movement, and are listed in the Veterans Roll Call, you are encouraged to add your comments to this discussion by emailing them to (If you are not already listed on the Roll Call, please add your name and information.)]

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