Doar History Trail honored with state historical marker
New Richmond High School students Jade Berget, Nevaeh Brewer, David Postma and Parker Keilen delivered an inspired rendition of the national anthem to open the ceremony dedicating the placement of a historical marker at the head of the John Doar History Trail on Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018.
The John Doar History Trail became the 576th addition to the Wisconsin Historical Society Historical Marker Program (wisconsinhistory.org). The program commemorates individuals, events, buildings or sites of local, state or national prominence that contribute to Wisconsin's rich and informative historical heritage.
"In the 1960's and beyond, Mr. Doar stood for the constitutional promise of equality under law. That's what this is all about. He fought for people who didn't always get to fight for themselves ... Just as Mr. Doar has permanently impacted our nation, let this marker be a lasting reminder that the fight for fairness, kindness and equality continues on," said State Sen. and Somerset native Patty Schachtner.
Inside the civic center, sheltered from the rain and cold outside, a grateful audience heard first from an appreciative MaryKay Rice, cousin to John Doar, followed by Christian Overland, Director of the Wisconsin Historical Society.
"There were three things that were very important to John; family, his work and his love for his hometown, New Richmond. Thank you for the historical marker in honor of John's work and recognizing the important role he played in American history. You made his family and the citizens of New Richmond very proud of his hometown," said MaryKay Rice.
Overland provided a brief history of the society then recognized the city for its work on the Doar Trail and accompanying programs with the Board of Curators Public Program Award.
"In 1898 our legislature enacted legislation which allowed the historical society to create a network of local history organizations throughout the entire state. It became the first network of its kind in the United States and today the largest network of local history organizations in the United States with more than 407 local affiliates.
"New Richmond did something that no other organization did in the past couple of years. You created partnerships and you created opportunities to pull the city together to create this wonderful trail, the John Doar History Trail, which can be a living tribute to John with the marker. You created panels, films and other programs to pull the community together and add import to the story not only for New Richmond but for the surrounding region."
Overland addressed the significance of Doar's contribution to history.
"When I think of John's work, I think of him as a patriot of the United States. Someone who was walking with King in Selma, who was walking with King and Julian Bond in other marches. These are the proud moments of who we are today, the moments that bind us together," said Overland.
The large marker features a brief biography of Doar's life and accomplishments in ivory letters set against a tan background with the emblem of a badger at the top.
According to the Historical Society's Director of Programs-Outreach, Rick Bernstein, the Doar Trail marker is the latest addition to a proud and extensive tradition which began in 1951 with a marker to commemorate the Peshtigo Fire.
"The program actually started in 1942, but the program that we have now with the aluminum marker, that started in 1951. The one for Peshtigo is bigger, but it's got that badger emblem on top and that's really what distinguishes our marker from most other markers around the state. That badger, the tobacco brown field and the ivory cream trim and lettering make it unique to Wisconsin and to the state historical society," explained Bernstein.
The markers are custom made for the Society by Sewah Studios (sewahstudios.com), a third generation foundry in Marietta, Ohio specializing in custom aluminum casting. The society has been working exclusively with Sewah since the 1950's.
The inscription on the front of the marker reads:
Front: John Doar was born Dec. 3, 1921 in Minneapolis and grew up in New Richmond, WI. He graduated from Princeton University and received is law degree from the University of California at Berkeley. John returned to New Richmond in 1950 to practice law with his father William Thomas Doar Sr., older brother William Thomas Doar Jr., and cousin Warren P. Knowles Jr. In 1960, John moved to Washington D.C. to serve in the Civil Rights Division of the United States Justice Department. In his seven years with the division, John prosecuted several high profile cases such as the Mississippi burning trial and personally escorted James Meredith as he arrived at the University of Mississippi as its first black student. His efforts laid the groundwork for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
After leaving the Civil Rights division in 1967, John moved to New York where he lead anti-poverty efforts in Brooklyn and served on the New York City Board of Education. In 1973, John served as special counsel to the House Judiciary Committee's impeachment inquiry into the conduct of President Richard Nixon. Following President's Nixon's resignation from office, John practiced private law for more than three decades. John was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012 for his service to his country. John Doar died on Nov. 11, 2014. Thanks to the generosity of the W. T. Doar Jr. and Patricia L. Doar Trust, the John Doar History Trail was opened on Aug. 26, 2017, in New Richmond at the conclusion of a three-day series of events helped to celebrate John and the community that he loved.