William D. Ruckelshaus, who resigned as deputy attorney general rather than carry out President Richard M. Nixon’s illegal order to fire the independent special Watergate prosecutor in the constitutional crisis of 1973 known as the “Saturday Night Massacre,” died on Wednesday at his home in Seattle. He was 87.
His death was confirmed by his daughter Mary Ruckelshaus.
Strategic Director, Madrona Venture Group, and Chairman, World Resources Institute; former Chairman and CEO, Browning-Ferris Industries, Inc.; former Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (1970-73 and 1983-85)
William (Bill) Ruckelshaus was Chairman and CEO of Browning-Ferris Industries from 1988 to 1995, and served as Chairman from 1995 to 1999. Bill was Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, serving as the Agency's first Administrator when it was formed in 1970 and again as its fifth Administrator in 1983. He was later appointed acting Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and then served as Deputy Attorney General of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Bill served as Senior Vice President for Law and Corporate Affairs for the Weyerhaeuser Company, and in the mid-1980s, he again served as EPA Administrator before joining the Seattle law firm of Perkins Coie.
He is currently a director of TVW, Isilon Systems, Inc., and has recently retired from the boards of Weyerhaeuser Company, Nordstrom, Inc., Cummins Engine Company, Solutia, Pharmacia Corporation, and Monsanto. Bill is also on the Board and former Chairman of World Resources Institute in Washington, D.C., Chairman of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board for the State of Washington, Chair of the Seattle Aquarium Society, former member of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy. In 2004 he was appointed Chairman of The William D. Ruckelshaus Center, a collaborative problem solving institution of the University of Washington and Washington State University. In 2003 he was appointed to serve on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Science Advisory Board. And from 2005 until 2010, he was appointed by Governor Gregoire to co-chair the Puget Sound Partnership to organize the cleanup of Puget Sound.
William Doyle Ruckelshaus was born on July 24, 1932, in Indianapolis, the second of three children of John K. and Marion (Doyle) Ruckelshaus. His father was a lawyer and Republican Party official who drowned at 60 in a fishing accident in Michigan.
After two years in the Army, he attended Princeton University and graduated with honors in 1957, then earned a law degree from Harvard in 1960. In 1960 he married Ellen Urban, who died of complications of giving birth to twin girls in 1961. In 1962 he married Jill Elizabeth Strickland, who survives him along with their children, Jennifer and William Ruckelshaus and Robin Kellogg; his twin daughters, Catherine and Mary Ruckelshaus; a sister, Marion Ruckelshaus Bitzer; and 12 grandchildren.