John W. Douglas, 88, a lawyer who championed civil rights and human rights as an assistant U.S. attorney general in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations and later in private practice, died Wednesday at his home in Washington from complications of a stroke, said his son, Peter.
Mr. Douglas led the Justice Department's Civil Division from 1963 to 1966. In 1963, he was designated by Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to represent the government in planning for the Aug. 28 March on Washington, during which the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his historic "I Have a Dream" speech. Attended by approximately 250,000 people, the march was one of the largest demonstrations ever held in the capital.
Mr. Douglas left the Justice Department in 1966 to help manage the fourth and last Senate campaign of his father, Paul H. Douglas (D., Ill.), who was defeated by Charles H. Percy, a Republican.
In fall 1970, Mr. Douglas was cochairman of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law when it sent dozens of volunteers into the South to take legal action against "in school" segregation of black children in newly integrated school systems.
While a partner in the Washington-based law firm Covington & Burling, Mr. Douglas was involved with many other legal advocacy efforts. He was cochairman of the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs and president of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association. From 1978 to 1986, as chairman of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, he promoted arms control and disarmament.
In the 1980s, Mr. Douglas joined human-rights and election-monitoring missions to foreign countries, including traveling to South Africa in 1985 with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy to demonstrate against apartheid.