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John Michael Doar

Posted on: July 18th, 2012 by benita

As a young attorney working  within the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, John Doar was in downtown Jackson in June, 1963 to  prevent a riot following the assassination of civil rights leader Medgar Evers.  Doar placed himself between angry black youths and a double line of heavily armed,  police ready to move in with clubs and guns.  Sidestepping stones and bottles he moved along Farrish Street urging the mob to put down their weapons.  “My name is John Doar, D-O-A-R,” he shouted.  “I’m from the Justice Department, and anybody around here knows I stand for what is right.”

In September of 1962, John Doar stood with James Meredith in the doorway outside Room 1007 on the  10th floor of the State Office Building in Jackson as his Meredith’s attempt to register as the first black student at the University of Mississippi was blocked by Governor Ross Barnett.  Doar said to Governor Barnett, ” I call on you to permit us to go on in and see Mr. Ellis and get this young man registered.”  Doar’s request was met with shouts of “No! No!” and then “Get going! Get going!”   “Thank you, and we leave politely,” Doar said.

When not preventing riots or confronting governors, Doar was usually working tirelessly to protect the voting rights of black southernors.  In the end, it was Doar’s dogged work that provided, in his words, “a clear demonstration” that the old laws did not work and that new protections were needed.  Doar, as the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, watched President Johnson sign into law in August of 1965 the Voting Rights Act.  Doar described the Act as “one of the greatest pieces of legislation ever enacted.”

Doar was very sympathetic to the goals of the Mississippi Summer Project.  He spoke at the Ohio training sessions attended by Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner.  “I admire what you intend to do,” he told the young volunteers.  Then he warned them that the federal government could not protect them from violence: “There is no federal police force.”

Doar was the first federal official notified of the disappearance of the three civil rights workers near Philadelphis, Mississippi.  At !:30 A.M.  on June 22, 1964, Doar received a call from an Atlanta SNCC worker telling him that the three were hours overdue from their trip to Neshoba County.  Doar told the worker to contact the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol, and soon thereafter invested the FBI with authority to enter the case.

Doar was the obvious choice as lead prosecutor in the Mississippi Burning Trial.  Two years earlier in Alabama, Doar had successfully prosecuted white supremacist Collie Leroy Wilkins for the murder  of Viola Liuzzo.  The conviction, based on a federal civil rights law and obtained from an all-white jury, was the first ever in Alabama for the death of a civil rights worker.

Doar was born in Minneapolis in 1921.  He graduated from St. Paul Academy, Princeton, and Boalt Hall School of Law.  He was practicing law in Wisconsin in 1960 when asked to take a job in the Justice Department that Doar said “no one else wanted.”  Doar left government service after seven years, and has subsequently remained in private practice in New York, except for a brief stint in 1974 as counsel to the House Judiciary Committee during the Nixon impeachment crisis.

Fellow civil rights attorney William Taylor said Doar had “a clear vision of what was unjust and intolerable, and he kept focused on that.”  Doar is, Taylor said, “a great man, a hero.”

Doar is a recipient of the 2012 Presidential Medal of Freedom.

James Meredith

Posted on: July 18th, 2012 by benita

Portrait of James Meredith

James Howard Meredith was born on June 25, 1933, in Kosciusko, Miss., and raised on his family’s 84-acre farm in Attala County. After graduation from Gibbs High in St. Petersburg, Fla., in June 1951, he served in the U.S. Air Force from 1951 to 1960, including a three-year tour of duty at Tachikawa Air Base in Japan.

He returned to his home state determined to become the first African-American to attend the University of Mississippi. He attended Jackson State College from 1960 to 1961, and applied for admission to the University of Mississippi in January 1961.

The state took several measures to prevent his admission. In February, the university sent Meredith a telegram denying his admission. When Meredith’s responses to this telegram went unanswered, he filed suit with the assistance of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense Fund. After a protracted court battle, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on September 10, 1962, that Meredith was to be admitted to the university. Mississippi Gov. Ross Barnett tried to prevent Meredith’s enrollment by assuming the position of registrar and blocking his admission.

On Sept. 30, 1962, when a deal was reached between Barnett and U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy to allow Meredith to enroll, a riot broke out on campus. A mob of angry whites confronted U.S. marshals stationed on campus to protect Meredith. The crowd assaulted the marshals with bricks and bullets outside the Lyceum, the university’s administration building, until the arrival of federal troops quelled the violence in the early morning hours. Two bystanders died in the confrontation, 206 marshals and soldiers were wounded, and 200 individuals were arrested. Meredith was finally allowed to register for courses on Oct. 1, 1962.

Messages of support for Meredith arrived from all over the world, including from Rosa Parks, Josephine Baker and Langston Hughes. However, Meredith was ostracized by most of his fellow students at the university and needed 24-hour protection from marshals. As a result, he described himself as “the most segregated Negro in America.” The broadside “Rebel Resistance” was created by students, in collaboration with the Citizens’ Council, to urge students to avoid any association with Meredith. Federal troops remained on campus for more than a year to ensure his safety. In spite of these challenges, Meredith graduated with a bachelor’s degree in August 1963. He went on to earn his LL.B. in 1968 from Columbia Law School.

A civil rights activist, businessman, politician and author, Meredith has dedicated his life to supporting individual rights. Aside from being the first African-American to attend the University of Mississippi, Meredith is noted for leading the 1966 “March Against Fear” from Memphis to Jackson in protest of the physical violence that African-Americans faced while exercising their right to vote. When Meredith was shot on the second day of the march, civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr., stepped in to complete the march.

Meredith campaigned on behalf of a number of black politicians in several states, and in 1972 ran unsuccessfully for a congressional seat. In 1989, he joined the staff of North Carolina’s arch-conservative Sen. Jesse Helms. In 1996, he led the “Black Man’s March to the Library.” He is the author of numerous publications, including Three Years in Mississippi, which describes his experience integrating the University of Mississippi, and A Mission from God: A Memoir and Challenge for America.



Mr. Harry Belafonte

Posted on: July 18th, 2012 by benita

Award-winning Harry Belafonte is as well known for his social activism and pursuit of social justice as he is for his acting and musical talent. His album Calypso made him the first artist in history to sell more than one million LPs. He won a Tony award for his Broadway debut in “John Murray Anderson Almanac” and an Emmy for “An Evening with Belafonte,” in which he was also the first black producer in television. He was also awarded the National Medal for the Arts by President Clinton.

He has been equally recognized in the social justice arena, with honors such as The Albert Einstein Award from Yeshiva University, the Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Prize, and the Nelson Mandela Courage Award, as well as awards from the American Jewish Congress, the NAACP, the City of Hope, Fight for Sight, The Urban League, The National Conference of Black Mayors, the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, the ACLU, the State Department, the Boy Scouts of America, Hadassah International, and the Peace Corps.

Over the decades, Mr. Belafonte has worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., President John F. Kennedy, and Nelson Mandela, and was the driving force behind the 1985 “We Are the World” project to help people affected by war, drought, and famine in Africa. He has served as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and is a recipient of the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors for excellence in the performing arts.

Posted on: July 9th, 2012 by benita

Photo Gallery: Siver Pond Dedication

Posted on: June 28th, 2012 by benita
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Posted on: June 27th, 2012 by benita

Posted on: June 27th, 2012 by benita

Posted on: June 27th, 2012 by benita

Posted on: June 27th, 2012 by benita

Myrlie Evers-Williams Keynote Speaker at 50 Years of Integration Event

Posted on: June 19th, 2012 by benita

Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of Civil Rights Activist Medgar Evers, opened the University’s “50 Year’s of Integration” events recently by delivering a keynote address at Fulton Chapel. Produced by Mary Stanton.