John E. Ryan, at 92, civil rights attorney for JFK


John E. “Jack” Ryan of Lexington, a military veteran and former civil rights attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice, died Sept. 8 at Benchmark Senior Living Center in Norwood. He was 92.

He was raised in Somerville during the Depression.

His first job was working for an ice vendor and later at a tannery as a teenager and as a hotel steward on Nantucket.

Mr. Ryan was a 1943 graduate of St. Clements High School in Medford.

He served in the Army Air Forces in the Pacific as a member of the 330th Bomb Group of the 20th Air Force during World War II, and was discharged in 1945 after achieving the rank of first sergeant.

He attended Boston College where he earned a degree in history and was a 1950 graduate of Boston College Law School.

Mr. Ryan worked for his father’s family law practice Ryan & Ryan in Arlington prior to becoming Ward 6 alderman of Somerville, a position he held for six years.

He served as a trial attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice under the Kennedy administration for four years during which he represented the government in matters involving voting rights and the integration of schools, restaurants and public facilities in the South.

He returned to Massachusetts in 1966 and settled in Lexington where he served on the town’s Historic District Commission and was an active parishioner of St. Bridgid’s Church.

Mr. Ryan worked as deputy division counsel for the Army Corps of Engineers at its Waltham headquarters until retirement in 1987.

He continued to manage a private family law practice for several years after his retirement.

He is survived by his wife Carol; five daughters, Carolyn and Kathleen, both of Norwood, Jane of Medway, Jacquelyn Partridge of Arlington and Suzanne Burgess of Westford; a sister, Ann Diamond of Maryland; three brothers, Lawrence of Chelmsford, Edward of Wakefield and Thomas of Florida and 13 grandchildren.

A funeral service was held yesterday at St. Bridgid’s Church, Lexington.

Burial was in Westview Cemetery, Lexington.

Arrangements by Rogers Funeral Home, Cambridge.


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