John Endicott Lawrence, Sr.: His Globe Obituary

After John Endicott Lawrence, Sr. died, the following obituary appeared in the Boston Globe.

In posts to come, I will offer remembrances by family members, as well as a biographical sketch written, while he was alive, by his (then) thirteen year-old great-grandson.

For now, consider this the briefest of introductions to a remarkable, wonderful man.


from the Boston Globe


John Endicott Lawrence


Died at home surrounded by his family in Hamilton on March 27 at the age of 97. The last living member of the staff of Admiral William (Bull) Halsey, he was present at the surrender of the Japanese in Tokyo Bay in 1945. But, this was only one chapter in a long life devoted to service in many forms. After graduating from Groton School in 1927, Harvard College in 1931 and following graduate studies in Munich, he earned a LL.B from Harvard Law School in 1936 and joined the firm of Goodwin, Proctor & Hoar in Boston. The practice of law not having engaged him, he went into the cotton business with his father in 1938 supplying the mills of New England with bales from the American south, India and Egypt. Pearl Harbor changed all this. After a short Army basic course at Camp Devens, older volunteers were sent home with thanks, but at 32 he wasn’t ready for the sidelines and talked his way into a new Navy program forming up at Quonset Point, RI, to train naval air intelligence personnel. This brought him to Guadalcanal with the Marine landings, charged to establish contact with coast watchers whose efforts provided critical intelligence to the landing force at this crucial turning point in the war. Mostly former colonial administrators in the islands of the Pacific, these acculturated residents took to the hills with radios supported by local people who opposed Japanese rule. Admiral Halsey sought seasoned veterans for his staff as the 3rd fleet charged up the Central Pacific towards Japan. Lawrence debriefed the air crews that shot down Admiral Yamamoto. At war’s end, he returned to the cotton business, but public service was always an interest. He ran the United Fund drive in Boston in 1947 and actively promoted Dwight Eisenhower’s presidential run in 1952. Christian Herter appointed him to the Racing Commission. He served as a trustee of Groton School for 25 years, the last 10 as president of the Board, and as an Overseer of Harvard 1959-62. He served on the Corporation and Board of the Massachusetts General Hospital for over 50 years, many of those as Chair. He effected with Dr. J. Robert Buchanan, then General Director of the MGH, a collaboration of the MGH and the Hinduja Foundation of Bombay to create a different sort of hospital which drew on the Indian diaspora for western trained personnel. Subsequently, as President of the Hinduja Foundation in New York, he enabled the establishment of a chair at Harvard to promote better understanding of the Indian culture in the USA. These accomplishments combined his loves of India, the MGH and Harvard, no small achievements for a man in his 70s. Meanwhile, cotton merchandising had been crushed by the Commodity Credit Corporation which paid the cotton farmer a subsidized price for their production above the market leaving no room for merchants. Lawrence turned to his far flung contacts to develop other opportunities leading to ventures in canning vegetables on the former Farouk Estates in the Egyptian Nile Delta, tuna canning in Somalia, converting locally mined mica in India into electronic capacitors, and shrimp fishing and processing in The Cameroons with Gortons of Gloucester. During this time, he held directorships at General Electric, West Point Pepperell and the State Street Investment Corporation. John Lawrence never let these activities interfere with his love of sailing on the coast of Maine, horses, golf and skiing which he learned in Germany in the 1930s and brought to a proficiency which earned him an invitation to the Olympic training camp in 1935, an invitation he had to turn down to finish law school. He was a longtime member of the Porcellian Club, Myopia Hunt Club, Somerset Club, India Wharf Rats, Hochgebirge Ski Club, The Humane Society and the Tavern Club. He married Anne Mercer Tuckerman in 1938 and nursed her through more than 25 years of Parkinson’s Disease until her death in 1980. In 1983, he married an old friend widowed in 1974, Janet White Barnes, whose companionship and family brought him great joy. She died in 1998. He took great pleasure from the company of his children, Susanna Colloredo-Mansfeld, John E. Jr (Jack), David, their spouses, his 8 grandchildren and 14.8 great-grandchildren. There will be a memorial gathering at his house on May 13, 2007 at Noon.

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