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A letter from an alumnus about John Doar ’44

July 15, 2001

One of the people pictured on the cover of the July 2001 issue put me in mind of John Doar ’44.

I remember that it was in 1963, only six years before our 25th, following the Medgar Evers funeral in Jackson, Miss., that John walked into the flashpoint of a riot and placed himself between enraged black youths and a double line of heavily armed police ready to move in with clubs and guns. Hands raised above his head, bricks and bottles crashed all around him, he shouted:

"My name is John Doar, D-O-A-R.

"I'm from the Justice Department, and anybody around here knows I stand for what is right. This is not the way that things should be done." The very sight of John stilled the crowd so that he could be heard. He shouted his own name again and stated that every one around knew who he was and that he stood for what is right. He stated the names of prominent movement leaders and that they, too, wanted the crowd to disperse. Sidestepping stones and bottles he moved along Farrish Street urging the mob to put down their weapons and go to their homes.

Miraculously, they did and Doar had ended the violence. Confronting that mob and stopping its angry march prevented a possible deadly clash. The Civil Rights Act's chances of passage the following year may have been obliterated that day..

Then who knows how long the nation's move towards desegregation might have taken?

I apologize, but I can't help getting euphoric over John's heroism on that day and what it's meant to our country.

Brad Bradford ’44
Highland Park, Ill.

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