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Remembering former NLRB Chairman John C. Truesdale, whose Agency career spanned six decades

Former National Labor Relations Board Chairman John C. Truesdale, whose career at the NLRB spanned six decades, died on Sunday, July 3, 2011, according to family and friends. He was 89, and had been suffering from cancer for about a year.

Mr. Truesdale’s long and distinguished NLRB career began in 1948, when he took a job as a field examiner at the agency’s Buffalo office. He later held the same position in the New Orleans office, where he met his future wife Karin, before moving to the agency’s Washington DC headquarters to work in the Office of the Executive Secretary. He later served as Executive Secretary of the NLRB for twenty years.

First appointed by President Jimmy Carter, Mr. Truesdale served four separate stints as Board Member between 1977 and 1996. He retired in 1996, but was asked to return in 1998 by President Clinton, who gave him a recess appointment and designated him to serve as Chairman. The following year he was confirmed by the unanimous vote of the Senate. Few, if any, other NLRB employees rose from an entry-level position all the way to the top as a Board Member and ultimately Chairman.

In a 1998 Washington Post article on his elevation to the Chairmanship, Mr. Truesdale was quoted as follows: "I spent my entire career trying to expedite the issuance of cases. I come in with no preconceived notions of policy but to reduce the amount of time it takes to issue decisions." During his tenure as Chairman, he used every tool at his disposal to expedite case processing, including his considerable interpersonal skills and sense of humor.

Mr. Truesdale "re-retired" from the NLRB in 2001 at the age of 80. Thereafter, he worked as a labor-management arbitrator.

On behalf of the Board, Chairman Wilma Liebman said, "John Truesdale will truly be missed. He was an exceptional public servant, a friend and role model to many, and a wonderful, warm and witty man. He was relentlessly curious about so many subjects and dedicated to the NLRB and its work. I will miss his frequent emails filled with questions, humor and personal interest. As present Executive Secretary Lester Heltzer said upon learning of John's death, 'The honor, privilege and pleasure of knowing John will always be cherished.'"

Mr. Truesdale was raised in Grinnell, Iowa, where his father was the college basketball coach, and served in the Coast Guard during World War II. He received an AB degree from Grinnell College and went on to earn a master’s degree in industrial and labor relations from Cornell University, and a JD degree from Georgetown University Law School.

He is survived by his wife Karin, a daughter, Margaret, and sons Jack, Charlie, and Andrew, and by two sisters. Arrangements for a Memorial service have not yet been announced.

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