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The John Doar History Trail

The John Doar History Trail

Professors Discuss their History at John Doar Trail Opening Celebration

September 5, 2017

Tags: Business & Community, Centers of Distinction, Advocacy Center, Faculty & Scholarship, 2017

Professors Brian Landsberg and Dorothy Landsberg were panelists at the celebration of the opening of the John Doar History Trail on Aug. 25, 2017. Professor Dorothy Landsberg was a member of the legal team that worked on the impeachment inquiry into the conduct of President Richard Nixon, and Distinguished Professor of Law Emeritus Brian Landsberg was an attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice during the 1960s. Professor Dorothy Landsberg was quoted in the New Richmond News article "Bringing civil rights movement and Nixon impeachment to life." (read)  

Professor Brian Landsberg reflects on the Legacy of John Doar in his essay "American Values and the John Doar History Trail," which he wrote on Sept. 1, 2017.

American Values and the John Doar History Trail

Last weekend my wife, Dorothy, and I trekked to New Richmond, Wisconsin, for the opening of the John Doar History Trail.  The Trail's plaques arrayed around the old mill-pond relate the highlights of Doar's public career--- pursuing justice for African-American sharecroppers evicted because they registered to vote; protecting James Meredith as he became the first black person to attend the University of Mississippi; preventing a police riot against mourners for Medgar Lee Evers in Jackson, Mississippi; suing voter registrars who denied African-Americans the right to vote; convicting the ku klux klan killers of voting rights supporters Viola Liuzzo (murdered after Selma-Montgomery march) and  James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner (murdered in Philadelphia, Mississippi); and leading the House Judiciary Committee's impeachment inquiry that led to the resignation of President Nixon.  John Doar received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his role as field general over the lawyers and staff of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department.

Distinguished Professor of Law Emeritus Brian K. LandsbergNew Richmond, a town of 8,800 people, is larger than when John Doar grew up and practiced law there, but is still small enough to impart a feeling of community.  Picnickers enjoyed hot dogs and chips financed by "free will offerings."  They warmly welcomed visitors.  By the end of the weekend we had enjoyed conversations with the Mayor, the Police Chief, an Alderman, the Librarian, Viet Nam veterans, and many other folks.  Some came to enjoy the food and companionship, but most also wanted to recognize John Doar, who shared their attributes of hard work, toughness, fairness, and generosity.  Doar, a life-long Republican, won bipartisan praise in letters from Governor Scott Walker, House Speaker Tim Ryan, former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and local lawmakers.

Most residents of New Richmond are white.  Yet they applauded Doar's work on behalf of racial equality.  Their member of Congress is Republican, yet they applauded Doar's work on the impeachment inquiry.  While seemingly disparate jobs, the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department and the House Judiciary Impeachment Inquiry, both led by John Doar, shared similar values.  Both upheld the rule of law.  Both upheld fundamental fairness.  Both upheld procedural regularity.  In both, the facts prevailed in persuading the American people.

At the ceremony dedicating the trail, Robert Moses, a storied leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee's work in Mississippi, led the participants in reading aloud the Preamble to the United States Constitution:  "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."  These words epitomize John Doar's work for the nation. 

The events of the weekend gave hope that American values, supported by facts, can prevail over partisanship and over prejudice.  We left New Richmond with optimism that the same values of fairness, process, and generosity that we found there can defeat the forces of division and destruction that plague America today.

    -   Brian K. Landsberg, Distinguished Professor of Law Emeritus, McGeorge School of Law