John AS McGlennon, 80, of Gloucester; initial New England EPA chief

January 4, 2016 - Picnic Time

Sitting in his 23rd-floor bureau in a John F. Kennedy Federal Building, John A.S. McGlennon gazed out a window during Boston Harbor on a Jan day in 1972. Pollution had fouled a H2O subsequent and a atmosphere above, and he had a management to do something about it. Five months earlier, he had been sworn in as a initial New England informal director of a then-fledgling US Environmental Protection Agency.

“I infrequently wonder,” he pronounced in a Globe interview, “what are we doing now, that is publicly acceptable, that destiny generations will damn us for?”


With a array of confidant moves, he set out to scold past mistakes and strengthen air, land, and H2O for generations ahead. Mr. McGlennon, who was 80 when he died of cancer Dec. 17 in his Gloucester home, became one of New England’s strongest voices for a sourroundings during his six-year EPA tenure.

“He orderly and led a initial extensive cleanups via New England,” Curt Spalding, a EPA’s stream informal administrator, wrote in a reverence published in a Gloucester Daily Times. “He also launched a vital bid to revive Boston Harbor and New England’s vital rivers — work that stands as one of a proudest legacies, and work that has continued now for several generations.”

By a magnitude of today’s domestic climate, Mr. McGlennon seemed an doubtful claimant to turn such an environmental advocate. A Republican and a former state deputy from Concord, he had positioned himself as a assuage when he ran for Congress in 1970, descending fewer than 2,600 votes brief of a Rev. Robert Drinan, who was inaugurated as an anti-Vietnam War Democrat.

As informal EPA administrator, however, Mr. McGlennon generated headlines. In 1973, he introduced an desirous devise to cut Boston’s atmosphere pollution. The proposals enclosed requiring many drivers to leave their cars during home one day any week. On those designated days, commuters who lived easterly of Interstate 495 would have been barred from pushing inside Route 128.

And in Nov 1976, he declined to approve a Seabrook chief plant’s cooling system, a preference that during a time looked like it competence henceforth hindrance construction.


Although a automobile anathema was after forsaken in face of extreme antithesis and his Seabrook preference was topsy-turvy by a superior, his EPA reign was ground-breaking for a segment and life-changing for Mr. McGlennon. “I’d contend we came in here an pledge environmentalist and we wish I’m withdrawal some-more as a veteran environmentalist,” he told a Globe as he stepped down in Jun 1977.

The change from domestic insider to open environmentalist was “an evolution,” he said. Before portion in a Legislature for 4 years and using for US representative, he had hold a staff position with a Republican State Committee and was appointment secretary to Governor John Volpe, a Republican.

“At some point, we motionless we would many expected never run again for open office,” he removed in 1977. “And when we done that decision, afterwards it was transparent that this would be my career.”

Some tools of his EPA bequest were reduction controversial, yet no reduction far-reaching. The Boston Transportation Control Plan he due resulted in many incomparable companies sourroundings adult carpools. He also wanted to appropriate a highway line only for train and carpool use, a prophesy that can be seen in today’s high-occupancy car lanes. When Mr. McGlennon stepped down, some-more than $1.1 billion of agency-sponsored sewage diagnosis comforts had been built or were being assembled via New England.

After he left a EPA, Mr. McGlennon became a consultant to Norway’s sourroundings method and worked on reworking that country’s purify H2O regulations. He after helped found ERM-McGlennon Associates, an environmental consulting company.

To consulting he brought knowledge gained in a arm-twisting star of politics. While creation a Seabrook ruling, “there was vigour from folks during EPA to be clever about a implications of my preference on my career,” he told a Globe in 1986. “And there were 3 editorials in The Wall Street Journal — a many disparaging I’ve ever read. They called me a Russian apparatchik. we haven’t lost that. It unequivocally dissapoint me.”

He had desired a outdoor all his life. While flourishing adult in Newton and Salem, Mr. McGlennon spent summers in Southport, Maine, only west of Boothbay Harbor, where he filled days rowing along a coast. He graduated from Trinity College School in Port Hope, Ontario, a village on a north seaside of Lake Ontario not distant from McGlennon Point, a partial of a range where his father’s family had lived.

Mr. McGlennon ‘launched a vital bid to revive Boston Harbor and New England’s vital rivers.’

Curt Spalding, EPA informal administrator 

After boarding school, he complicated supervision during Bowdoin College, graduating in 1957. Mr. McGlennon was an Army major in a tank training section and afterwards was in sales with Aetna insurance.

In 1959, he married Mary Jane Bullard, whom he had run into during a marriage of friends. “He was one of a few immature group I’d ever met who seemed to know that he wanted to do something in this world,” she recalled.

Mr. McGlennon “was an original,” she said. “John fundamentally followed a flog of his possess drum. He was ardent about his family, about a outdoors. And he was preoccupied and meddlesome in politics. He unequivocally wanted to make a difference.”

In a early 1960s, he was a margin coordinator for a Republican State Committee and spent a integrate of years as Volpe’s appointment secretary before being inaugurated in 1966 as a state deputy from Concord. Among Mr. McGlennon’s legislative actions was proposing a check that would need charity courses on wickedness and race control to high propagandize students. “If educated, they competence provide their sourroundings reduction fast than we have,” he told a Globe in Jan 1970.

For Mr. McGlennon, politics and a EPA were “the perfection of all he wanted to do to be effective,” his mother said. “He was a outrageous loyalist and he only felt that there was a track to creation change happen, and that was a right approach to go about it. It was such an sparkling time of possibility.”

In further to his wife, Mr. McGlennon leaves 3 daughters, Jane Remsen of Gloucester, Lindsay of Raleigh, N.C., and Holly Treat of Durham, Conn.; a sister, Caroline Stride of Gloucester; 7 grandchildren; and dual great-grandchildren.

A wake use will be hold during 1 p.m. Monday in Trinity Congregational Church in Gloucester.

Before relocating to Gloucester in a 1980s, a family lived subsequent to Concord’s woods, an all-season end for Mr. McGlennon as he led outings, mostly with a cruise in his backpack.

“He unequivocally desired a good picnic. We had some-more picnics in some-more tools of a nation and opposite environments than, we think, any family in history,” his mother said.

“One of a things we always got a flog out of with John,” she added, “is that we couldn’t go outward during night but him looking adult during a stars and only positively waxing elegant and wondering about what was out there and articulate about how extraordinary a star was.”

Globe Staff/File 1998

Mr. McGlennon (left), a Republican, served in a state Legislature for 4 years and ran for US representative.

Bryan Marquard can be reached during

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