Michael Ronald “Mike” Nathan was born Chicago, Illinois, in 1947, the son of Holocaust survivors. He was raised in Washington, D.C. When he was fourteen, he father suffered a fatal heart attack. Nathan resolved to be a doctor, and enrolled at Duke University on a scholarship in 1965. There he was active in the anti-Vietnam War movement and fought to have Duke workers’ Local 77 union recognized. On March 23, 1969, he married his girlfriend of two years, Sally Avery. After graduating in 1969, he enrolled at Duke University School of Medicine. In 1973 he organized a local chapter of the Medical Committee for Human Rights, and traveled to Guatemala to study pediatric medicine. He completed his residency in pediatrics at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas. When he returned in 1976, he and Sally divorced. She later married friend and fellow activist Paul Bermanzohn. Around this time he began to attend Study Training Circles held by the Workers Viewpoint Organization (WVO). In 1978 he became the head pediatrician at Lincoln Community Health Center in Durham. He married fellow activist Martha “Marty” Arthur Nathan and on April 12, 1979, their daughter Leah was born.
Nathan attended the anti-Klan march and conference organized by the Communist Workers Party (formerly the WVO) on November 3, 1979, in Greensboro. The CWP and protest participants convened that morning at Morningside Homes. At 11:18 a caravan of cars carrying Klansmen and Nazis arrived. After a shot was fired from the head of the caravan, caravan members removed guns from the trunk of one of the cars. In the following eighty-eight seconds, five members of the CWP were killed. Nathan was beaten and fatally shot in the head. He died on November 5, 1979.