John Myer ’67

30 June 2020

Class: 1967

Major: History

Residence: Atlanta, GA

Deceased: June 26, 2020

(deceased 06/26/2020)

John Rea Myer, a passionate lawyer and devoted husband and father, October 16, 1945 – June 26, 2020, passed away Friday at Piedmont Hospital. The cause of death was complications from a stroke. John was born in Wichita, Kansas, the eldest of four children of Mary Elizabeth Reynolds and Leo Donald Myer. He graduated from Carleton College and received his J.D. from the University of Michigan in 1970. Following his law school graduation, John moved to Atlanta where he began fighting for the rights of the down-trodden and oppressed. John was the consummate lawyer’s lawyer. He first worked at Emory Community Legal Services before joining the leading civil rights firm in the city, Moore, Alexander & Rindskoph. There he honed the advocacy skills that would be his trademark. In a career highlighted by landmark decisions, his most significant victory was before the United States Supreme Court in 1978 in Dougherty County v. White, a case that confirmed the deep and expansive reach of the pre-clearance requirements of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He was a committed believer in the rights of women and minorities and steered litigation challenging discriminatory employment practices, including the precedent-setting case of Keeler v. Hills that attacked disparate treatment in promotions in the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. He frequently consulted with lawyers around the country who were working on similar cases. His legal writing was prosaic, brilliant, and persuasive as evidenced by his successes before both trial and appellate courts. John loved local politics and spear-headed some notable and successful campaigns in the 1970’s, including Todd Evans’s run for the Georgia State Senate and Mary Davis’s run for the Atlanta City Council. His love of politics also led to his representation of intown neighborhood groups in their historic litigation against the construction of a proposed highway that would have destroyed what are now the thriving Morningside, Virginia-Highland, and Inman Park neighborhoods. He challenged the sufficiency of the environmental impact statement for the MARTA system before, ironically, serving on the MARTA Board of Directors for five years. He particularly enjoyed his time working in the City of Atlanta Department of Law. There, he served as the First Assistant City Attorney and appreciated the challenge of advising and representing a complex and complicated city, along with its Mayor and his good friend, Maynard Jackson. He found one of his greatest challenges as a lawyer in fighting the imposition of death sentences. His years-long battle on behalf of two inmate convicted of crimes exemplified the best of the legal profession in representing unpopular causes and people. John, however, was far more than a lawyer. To those friends who knew him best, he was a dry wit, a confidant, a source of encouragement, a lovable curmudgeon, and a true and loyal supporter. John was a lover of music-his sons provided Willie Nelson and Dylan for his last hospital stay, and a voracious reader of Henry James. His friends recollect raucous political discussions around big dinner tables that extended long into the evening. John was a dedicated father to his four sons and a loving and generous husband to his wife of 29 years, Debby McCarty. They raised his sons to believe in the value of a good education, the importance of kindness and a commitment to others, and an appreciation for the natural world. To that end, his three older sons each completed the strenuous requirements to become Eagle Scouts and his youngest son is following in their footsteps. His oldest son, Jack is a Geologist in Nashville, Peter, is headed to Emory Medical School next month. His third son, Benjamin, recently graduated from Wofford College, now in UGA MA program and is an accomplished musician, and Patrick, a junior at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School. John was the proudest of fathers about his sons’ accomplishments. John and Debby loved to travel and some of his favorite times were on his pontoon boat on Lake Oconee engaging in bird watching and astronomy, among his lifelong interests and enjoyments. John is survived by his wife of 29 years, Deborah Ownby McCarty, and his four sons, Jack, Peter, Benjamin, and Patrick. He is also survived by his sister, Katie Myer Lukens, brothers, Jeff Myer ( Pat Cavey) and Joel (Cheryl) Myer, and brother and sister-in-law John Ownby, Jr. and Gina, I niece and 2 nephews. Donations in lieu of flowers, may be made in John’s memory to the ACLU of Georgia – John Myer Memorial Fund. Additional info at

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