Morgan Lewis

Remembering John R. Quarles Jr., 1935-2012


We have received word that our former Environmental partner and firm Chair, John R. Quarles Jr., a pillar of Morgan Lewis for many years and one of the true giants in environmental law, passed away October 29 at the age of 77. John helped to create and nurture the Environmental Protection Agency, then spent nearly three decades with us, during which time he was instrumental in establishing a nationally prominent environmental practice and in substantially growing our firm. We are thinking of John's family as we recall his many contributions to Morgan Lewis and to environmental law.

When John joined the firm as a partner in 1977, he had already had a distinguished career in government, joining the Interior Department in 1969 as Assistant to the Under Secretary of the Interior for Environmental Planning. He worked on President Nixon's first environmental message to Congress in 1970 and assisted in forming the EPA, which was established that same year. William Ruckelshaus, the EPA's first administrator, named John to become the agency's general counsel and to lead its enforcement program. As the furor over Watergate intensified in 1973 President Nixon appointed Ruckelshaus to head the FBI and John moved into the EPA's number two position. John served as deputy administrator of the EPA for four years, with two stints as acting administrator.

His time in government encompassed an era when many of our modern-day environmental protection statutes were being created or considered. John launched a nationwide water pollution permit program, built a tough enforcement arm, testified before Congress scores of times and wrote a book detailing his impressions of the early years of the EPA and its attendant political cross-currents.

John brought the same spirit of innovation and creativity with him when he came to Morgan Lewis. At the beginning, many clients still had not developed their own in-house environmental capacities. John provided them with critical insights across the developing landscape of environmental law—including those governing clean air, Superfund and hazardous waste—not only in his representations but through several books, scores of articles and numerous speeches. John played a leading role in the creation of an "Environmental Deskbook," which put the firm and our credentials on every client's desk. He also helped to pioneer Morgan Lewis's presence on the Internet.

John developed a list of environmental clients that included many household names. He also worked for decades for an industry trade group, the National Environmental Development Association, which hired him to litigate and lobby on Clean Air Act issues. John formed two industry groups that continue as Morgan Lewis clients to this day.

Although his contributions to environmental law were monumental, John's contributions to the growth of our firm were also remarkable. He served in a variety of capacities, including leading the Environmental Practice, sitting as a member of the Executive and Allocation committees and, from 1994 to 1995, serving as Chairman of the Governing Board, which at that time was central to the management structure. During those two years, Morgan Lewis significantly expanded its presence in New York and Washington, D.C., adding a total of more than 100 attorneys and establishing Morgan Lewis as a major player in representing the electric power and nuclear industries—a position we retain to this day.

John was born on April 26, 1935. He graduated with a BA from Yale in 1957 and he received his LLB from Harvard in 1961. Before entering government service, he was an attorney with the Boston firm of Herrick, Smith, Donald, Farley and Ketchum. He withdrew from the Morgan Lewis partnership in 2004 and became senior counsel, a position from which he retired in 2006. In 2005, the prestigious Environmental Law Institute made him its honoree for that year, a recognition that put him in the company of heads of state, former EPA administrators and other luminaries.

A man of deep Christian faith, John brought a generous and kind spirit to all of his endeavors. His manner was gentle and he was never one to push his views on others. John, who was devoted to his family, is survived by his wife, Barbara, and four adult children, as well as 10 grandchildren.

John's years of service and his lasting impact on the firm, the practice of environmental law, and the community will not be forgotten.

Shared memories and condolences

Bob Sussman
I got to know John well after he left EPA but shortly after my own departure from the agency, where I held the same position as John. We were co-counsel on a major environmental case and bonded deeply. John was extraordinarily thoughtful and wise as a counselor and treated all colleagues with respect and affection. His insights were always helpful and carefully considered. He was a gentle man with an impish sense of humor. EPA (and all its alums) owe John a deep debt of gratitude for his formative role in creating and then steering the agency through its critical early years.

Carl Uehlein
John was not just a quality lawyer - but a gentleman with a strong sense of decency, compassion and common sense. I feel honored to have had the opportunity to know him and to have been be part of the same law firm. A true loss to the community. My sincerest sympathies to Barbara, their children and grandchildren.

Stacie Tiongson
I was deeply saddened to hear of John's passing. I have such fond memories of working for John early in my career and always appreciated how kind he was to me. After I heard of his passing, I searched high and low for a letter that John wrote to me after I had been appointed to a position on Capitol Hill. As I reread the letter, in which he congratulated me on my new position and reflected on his time at EPA and his dealings with Congress, it reminded me of what a class act John was and the example he set for all of us. The Greeks have a saying when someone passes on: "May his memory be eternal." I know that in John's case, it will.

Johnnie M. Jackson, Jr.
When I heard the news of John's passing, I was truly saddened by the loss.

I spent almost 24 years of my career as an in-house counsel at a large industrial company and, during that time, I had the privilege of working directly with John on numerous occasions during his time at Morgan Lewis. Together, he, and others like Ken Rubin, worked with us to develop the company’s approach to internal compliance protocols and our management of not insignificant environmental matters.

But that's not all.

Along the way John also became a co-creator, pioneer, adviser and sounding board in developing the then-novel idea that there could actually be a working "partnership" between in-house law departments and outside law firms that focused on value adds to both the firm and to the client company over the long term. And for that I am especially grateful both professionally and personally.

John has been described as a giant. I agree—yes—in so many ways.

Rest in peace, John. It was an honor to know you.

George Pain
I have fond memories of John both when he mentored me when I was with the Environmental Law Institute and when I interacted with him in his capacity as outside counsel. He was a true gentleman and scholar. He will be missed.

Jean Gleeson
I remember John Quarles from the 1970s working in the Government Regulation Section of Morgan Lewis. He was a gracious and dignified person who, although a partner and member of the firm management team, treated the staff as his equal. He was patient and friendly and always seemed grateful for their assistance. My sympathies to his family and friends for their loss.

Bob Smith
John was a kind and gentle man. He loved his wife and family and they were first and foremost in his life. He was a man of great faith, upstanding values and had a sharp and inquring mind. Those qualities, and his generosity of spirit, were reflected in the way he treated and interacted with everyone. I came to know John, first as the leader of the Environmental (and public contracts and construction) practice group, as a leader in the firm's Washington office and later as Chair of the Firm. In each of those roles, he brought a calm wisdom and balance to the dialogue and always conducted himself in a selfless and constructive manner. He was a true servant leader and, for that, and his other fine qualities, he enjoyed great respect among his partners and other colleagues. My heartfelt prayers and condolences go out to his wife, Barbara, and his family. May he REST IN PEACE.

Linda Eaton
I was very privileged to have worked with John, and to have been his friend, for many years. Genuine to the bone, John was kind, patient, wise, and generous, and a gentleman in every possible way. He never spoke harshly or derogatorily, he always had a cheerful word for everyone, and he had a terrific sense of humor. Like so many others, I missed John terribly after he left the firm. I am so very saddened by his passing, and send Barbara and the family deepest condolences on the loss of this wonderful man.

Howard Meyers
Having the opportunity to work closely with John during his time as Chairman of the Firm in 1994 and 1995 is certainly one of the highlights of my career. His time as Chairman was a period of significant growth for the firm, not only in numbers of lawyers but also practice breadth and national prominence. John was great strategic thinker, and the principal author of the "Firm Outlook and Direction" adopted at the 1995 Partners Meeting. Many of the strategies that he advocated were ultimately realized, to the long-term benefit of the firm and its partners. Although his career was punctuated by numerous professional achievements, John’s enduring legacy will be the kindness and goodwill toward others that permeated whatever he did. John Quarles personified all that we should ever want in a partner, firm leader, and friend.

Liliane Lykes
I am so sad to hear about this wonderful man's passing. I worked at the National Park Service, 1968-72. However, I didn't get to know him until I worked at EPA, 1973-75. During the years I was at Morgan Lewis, he always found time to chat with me and ask me how I was. He was the epitome of a "gentleman." My best to his family and friends.

David Menotti
John was a great man and a wonderful person, and he will be sorely missed.

I have many wonderful memories of him from the ABA environmental law conference that was held for more than thirty years at the Keystone Resort on top of Loveland Pass in Colorado. John and a number of other old EPA hands, including myself, Dick Denney, Mike James, Bill Frick, and Allan Eckert, often shared a condo for this event and enjoyed the skiing, each other’s company, and the conference, in that order. We even went to most of the substantive session, except when it was a powder day. John was an adherent of the “if it isn’t broke, don’t replace it” school regarding his ski equipment, and stuck with an old pair of Head skis with Mickey Mouse decals on them, well after the shaped ski revolution had converted the rest of us. We had some great times skiing Starfire, Mozart, and Wild Irishman, three of the classic Keystone trails, and had a number of memorable meals together in the Condo, with various of our housemates doing the cooking. One memory in particular stands out. It was an uncharacteristically warm and sunny day for mid-March in the Rockies, and we were able to take an outside lunch on a deck at the summit that had a spectacular view. John said something along the lines of “It doesn’t get any better than this,” and proceeded to buy us all lunch in celebration of the magnificence of the moment.

Rest in peace, dear friend.

Liz Davenport
My condolences to John's family... holding you "in the light" as we celebrate his life. My most vivid memories of him during the mid-1980s recall his abundant personal and professional integrity and his vision for building bridges among stakeholders through education and other innovative strategies. His uncommon leadership will be greatly missed.

James D. Pagliaro
I worked closely with John on client and firm projects. I never heard him speak a word in anger, nor did he ever demonstrate impatience or frustration. He was always a gentleman in his demeanor and in his actions. I admired his ability to build consensus even in the most contentious circumstances. His dedication to a client's cause was unshakable. He demonstrated a mastery of the law, but more importantly an understanding of people, a combination that produces results and engenders respect and affection. Your friends and colleagues at Morgan Lewis will miss you John. We extend to your family our prayers and support at this time of loss and grief.

Kenneth Rubin
When Barbara Quarles alerted me that John was nearing the end of his extraordinary life, I shared that sad news with just a few of his former colleagues within Morgan Lewis. I focused on the environmental group and the key people who assisted him when he was chairman of the firm, along with a handful of lawyers who worked with John in establishing the EPA in the 1970s. This led to a chain reaction of e-mails among an ever increasing number of people whose lives were touched in so many positive ways by John. This outpouring of warm wishes, and the sharing of numerous stories of all the good things John did, led to the establishment of this web page to give everyone the opportunity to contribute their thoughts in a communal way. I hope all who come here to read each other's comments, and to relay some their own recollections, will come away further inspired by John's legacy of integrity, wisdom, and faith.

To me, John was a giant. He was present at the creation of the EPA, at a time when many of our country's bedrock environmental laws were being developed. More importantly, he always strove to ensure that those laws and regulations were fairly and justly administered. And that was exactly the mission he pursued on behalf of his clients when he came to Morgan Lewis. He was determined to make sure that the standards he had helped to create were applied in ways that made sense, and that adhered to the Constitution. As chairman of the firm, his contributions to Morgan Lewis were, to put it simply, enormous.

But for me, a far greater accomplishment was that he did all this while keeping his family foremost in his thoughts and his life. Barbara and his children always got the first and best part of John, and he never wavered in his commitment to their well-being. He loved being a family man, even more than he loved being a lawyer, and he surely loved being a lawyer. I was honored to be his friend and colleague, and I will miss him.

Michael Steinberg
I had the singular privilege of working under John for nearly 3 years in the early 1980s, and later spending nearly 15 years as his law partner. What an extraordinary mentor and role model he was! Merely by observing his interactions with clients, EPA, his partners, and his family, I learned how a lawyer can succeed—without stepping on other people's toes.

John's intellect was such that he would pick up the Dictaphone and dictate a 50-page appellate brief—the typed draft that emerged later typically needed only minor editing. His integrity was such that when a potential new client wanted to "throw sand in the gears at EPA"—just to stall for time—he politely encouraged them to look elsewhere. His sense of fun and friendship was such that on our frequent trips to Baton Rouge, he'd scamper with me to the then-new "game room" at Hartsfield, where we'd play Pac-Man and other such things while waiting for our connecting flight. And his humility was such that when he was honored by the Environmental Law Institute in front of 2,000 lawyers, he gave all of the credit to his beloved wife, Barbara, and then spoke about the challenges facing our nation.

I reckon my years with John among the great blessings of my life.

Harry Rissetto
John and I practiced in different areas, but we became friends as a result of serving on several office and firm committees. In 1989 our son Harry was in a bad accident. While he was in intensive care at Childrens Hospital, John came to visit to offer his support and to join us in prayer. That act of kindness says a lot about the man.

John Shenefield
John was a very good friend. He was a fine firm partner. He was a valuable and creative colleague in firm governance. He was one of the principal reasons I came to Morgan Lewis in the first place—the arc of our legal careers was very similar and we had similar high hopes for our post-government careers.

At the core of the man was a loving and gentle spirit that led him always to be an optimist and a believer in his fellow man. Never ever did John speak ill of another, nor were harsh words or unkind expressions in his vocabulary.

But he was never soft or ambiguous in his ethical judgments. He personified rectitude and he was a model for many of us who had a chance to work with him. Smart, hard-working, and focused, he was an exceptionally able advocate, and he would have been an excellent judge had his career taken that direction.

Like so many others who came to know him and treasure his gifts, I miss him greatly.

Tom Wotring
John was a friend and a mentor and always ready with a smile and words of encouragement. A true servant leader.

Bill Lewis
John was a mentor and friend. He was the reason I joined Morgan Lewis. I had known him when I was in government and had developed great respect for his intellect, judgment, and integrity. Throughout the time we practiced together, John was the colleague I was closest to. He could always be counted on to be available to provide valuable insights and advice on policy and legal issues. In the environmental field, he was truly unique for the high regard he was held in among his peers. I have missed him greatly since he retired.

Chuck O'Connor
John was a lawyer of the old school. He was learned but not egocentric. He had great judgment and a moral compass informed by his faith that was unerring in his leadership style. Linda and I will be traveling on the 3rd which I regret, but we extend heartfelt condolences to Barbara and the Quarles family.

Bill Frerking
I am saddened by the news of John's death, but rejoice that he is before God's throne in Heaven based on his profession of faith in Christ Jesus as the One who paid the price for his sin and the sins of the world.

I knew John from a very important and first-of-its-kind project for the petroleum refining industry. I hired John to help us in negotiations of the first-ever NSR (New Source Review) consent decree (which became the marquee issues consent decree), among EPA, DOJ, and a prominent refining business. John played a key role in the three-party negotiations and did so keeping all parties focused on the goal. He was strong on critical issues, yet worked to find solutions acceptable to all involved. Most significantly, he conducted himself in a manner that prevented the pressures of the project from damaging the mutual repsect among the parties. In large part due to his involvement, the relationship between the government and our business was strengthened.

My highest priority in life is to ensure that my children (and all others who know me) will be as confident about my eternal destiny with Christ as John’s family and friends obviously are.

He also had a career and life that exemplified great achievement without sacrificing humility. He was a strong advocate while remaining a gentleman. That is a noble standard for all in the legal profession and the business world.

I look forward to being with Mr. Quarles again one of these days, this time for all eternity. I hope the rest of you are there as well.


Individual messages of condolence on this page reflect the opinions of the individual submitters and not those of Morgan Lewis.