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William Ruckelshaus

Board dates

1975 - 1977

William D. Ruckelshaus (July 24, 1932 – November 27, 2019) was the first head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in 1970. In a few short years, Administrator Ruckelshaus organized new recruits and existing staff from more than a dozen federal agencies while issuing sweeping new air and water standards, leveling the field for business competitors, and targeting “big polluters,” both companies and cities, for enforcement action. His tenure at EPA was cut short when he reluctantly agreed to run the FBI during the Watergate scandals and then serve as Deputy Attorney General. Ruckelshaus resigned as Deputy Attorney General in 1973, rather than firing independent special prosecutor Archibald Cox, by order of Richard Nixon, during what became known as Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre within his own administration. Ruckelshaus returned to head EPA from 1983 – 1985. In the private sector, Ruckelshaus has served in law practice, as Vice President of Weyerhaeuser Corporation, and CEO of a major waste management firm. He was also active in many community organizations, including a program in the Puget Sound region to develop consensus-based cleanup plans for this major resource. Bill Ruckelshaus received ELI’s Environmental Achievement Award in 1995.