Interview with John Doar
QUESTION 64
INTERVIEWER:

MAYBE, WELL, MAYBE YOU COULD TALK ABOUT THE THE ROLE OF THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT IN, I MEAN JUST IN WHAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT, IF YOU COULD, YOU KNOW, IN TERMS OF THE SELMA CAMPAIGN WHAT, WHAT, ROLE COULD IT HAVE, COULD IT PLAY?

John Doar:

Well, the Justice Department was a law enforcement agency and the role we played was to, was to try to use the Federal Courts to compel state and local officials to obey the law. Respect the Constitution. And uh, we didn't sit down, I didn't sit down, Burke Marshall did a lot of work with businessmen and other people did a lot of work with businessmen, and leaders in the community, church leaders and so forth. Uh, pointing out that it was in their interest not to have violence, not to cause the whole country to focus on Selma, or Birmingham, or someplace like that. But I wasn't engaged in that effort, par—particularly. I was engaged with seeing, trying to see that the laws were enforced or building a record of why the existing laws weren't effective. And by, you do that by trying to make the existing laws as effective as you can. And that's what we did. We ran at that as hard as we could. And if, even if we didn't get anywhere, we just went again at it. We went again at it. Because we built a record of, of which established that the laws in existence weren't capable of dealing with the situation. Now, other people were working on negotiations, trying to bring about change through local leadership, business leadership. It's not in your interest not to do this. And in then, of course, the kids were running at it, and Dr. King's organization was running at it, and this wasn't a coordinated effort.