If a major event happened during the 20th century, attorney and civil rights legend Mark Lane likely was there. The man who wrote in 1966 Rush to Judgment, which disputed the Warren Commission conclusions and spawned a conspiracy-theory industry on the assassination of John F. Kennedy, died May 10 at his Charlottesville home at age 89.
When Kennedy ran for president, Lane was his campaign manager in New York. He was arrested as a Freedom Rider in 1961 while serving as a New York state legislator. When Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated, Lane said the black civil rights leadership asked him to represent James Earl Ray because they weren’t convinced the U.S. government wasn’t involved in King’s death.
He was friends with Jane Fonda during the Vietnam War, and when cult leader Jim Jones told his 900 followers to drink the Kool-Aid in 1978 in Guyana, Lane, his attorney, “was one of four people to survive,” he said in 2006.
“I was always impressed with the breadth of his knowledge,” says retired UVA history prof Paul Gaston, who met Lane through his sister, Ann Lane, who was UVA’s director of women’s studies. “He was involved in so many events of the ’60s.”
Lane wrote 10 books, including his 2012 memoir, Citizen Lane: Defending our Rights in the Courts, the Capitol, and the Streets.
Gaston says he read some of Lane’s manuscripts, such as Last Word: My Indictment of the CIA in the Murder of JFK in 2011 and admired his work. “Mark was a very compelling speaker. He was so persuasive, nobody could disagree with him.”
Lane is survived by his wife, Trish, and three daughters. He moved to Charlottesville to be close to his sister, and when she moved to New York, he remained.
Trish Lane says the part of Lane’s long career he was most proud was “his early civil rights days as a Freedom Fighter, going through the South, getting arrested and being part of that change.”
He represented James Richardson, a wrongfully convicted black migrant worker who was on death row for the murder of his seven children and was freed after 21 years in prison. Lane said getting Richardson released “was the most wonderful moment of his life,“ remembers his wife.
“My husband was a remarkable man who spent his entire life committed to securing justice and equality throughout this country over the past seven decades,” says Trish Lane. “He changed the course of our history for the better through his tireless devotion.”
Lane did not want a funeral service, says his wife. “As he said, most of his friends were dead.”