Bill Ruckelshaus, 1932-2019
Remembering EPA's First, and Fifth, Administrator
"EPA was fortunate to have, as its first Administrator, an extraordinary public servant who gave direction and momentum to the fledgling environmental agency."
- banning the dangerous pesticide DDT;
- setting the first air quality standards to protect public health under the fledgling Clean Air Act;
- establishing standards for cleaner cars and lead-free gasoline;
- building an environmental law-enforcement program with teeth;
- creating clean-water-permit requirements for cities and industries; and
- building a foundation for so many of the environmental protections we now take for granted.
During the 1960s, smog in many cities had become deadly and rivers were so polluted they caught on fire. Ruckelshaus helped set the nation on a new path to protect and preserve our environment, and in turn, our health. And he established a set of core values that still drive this agency today: respecting the law, following the science, and operating openly and transparently.
In 1973, he was tapped to serve as Acting FBI Director, and soon after as Deputy Attorney General—a position which spanned the Watergate crisis and from which he resigned as a matter of integrity and principle. In 1983, Ruckelshaus returned to EPA for a second stint in which he launched our Superfund program—initiating clean-up of thousands of contaminated sites across America. He also started work on Chesapeake Bay protections, and set the agency on a course to address the challenge of acid rain.
EPA remembers Ruckelshaus for his integrity, leadership, and commitment to protecting public health and the environment.
Biographies and Articles about Administrator Ruckelshaus
- Biography of William D. Ruckelshaus: First Term
- William D. Ruckelshaus: The Return of "An Extraordinary Public Servant" [EPA Journal - July 1983]
- Oral history interview - this January 1993 interview examines the first (1970-73) and second (1983-85) terms of EPA Agency Administrator William D. Ruckelshaus, including EPA's relationship with the White House, Congress, industry, state governments, and environmental movement; and issues related to international affairs, budgets, Nixon and Reagan policies, and efforts towards cabinet status for EPA.
- The Guardian: Origins of the EPA - the First Administrator
- November 1985 article "EPA History (1970-1985)" - includes information on Ruckleshaus's first term and second term
Videos Featuring Administrator Ruckelshaus
- EPA Administrators: William Ruckleshaus
- EPA Administrators "In Their Own Words"
- "The Administrators" 1970-2008
Articles by Administrator Ruckelshaus
- EPA's First Administrator on the Establishment of EPA - December 1970 EPA press release
- From Awareness to Action - 1971 speech at Ohio State University on the need for a second Earth Day.
- A Challenge to EPA - Nov./Dec. 1980 EPA Journal article on his recollections of the origins of EPA and thoughts on its future challenges
- Views from the Former Administrators: William D. Ruckelshaus - November 1985 EPA Journal article
- Environmental Regulation: The Early Days at EPA - March 1988 EPA Journal article on the role of environmental regulation in the early days at EPA.
- Looking Back, Looking Ahead - Jan./Feb. 1990 EPA Journal article on the 20th anniversary of Earth Day, the origins of EPA and what the future may hold for EPA and the U.S.