Newburyport — George H. Lawler, Jr., 85, died peacefully on February 12, 2013 at his home surrounded by members of his loving family. George was a devoted husband, father and grandfather who served the city of Newburyport in numerous capacities for more than a half-century and played a pivotal role in the preservation of the historic downtown business district.
Mayor Lawler’s efforts to convince federal and state agencies to allow the use of grant funds for restoration, rather than demolition, of the downtown area led to changes in the law resulting in Newburyport’s revitalization, ultimately serving as a national model for historic preservation in urban renewal. As mayor, Lawler also spearheaded efforts to rebuild Newburyport’s industrial base with the help of the Newburyport Area Industrial Development Corporation (NAID), a group of city business owners and citizens which created the industrial park in the 1960s. He also brought the clipper ship Flying Cloud to Newburyport in 1967 to celebrate and promote the city’s rich maritime history. George was the recipient of numerous civic service awards, including the Monsignor Thomas M. Lane Community Service Award presented by the Ancient Order of Hibernians.
Lawler was elected mayor in 1963 after serving 10 years on the City Council, including four years as council president. He served as mayor from 1964 to 1968 and later served as assistant director of the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority (NRA) from 1968 to 1971. In 1971, he was chosen by the City Council to serve as city clerk, a position he held until his retirement. After his retirement, George was elected to the City Council again, serving from 1988 to 1992. Mr. Lawler also served numerous city boards and commissions, including his recent service as chairman of the Board of Water Commissioners from 2002 until his death. As the result of his lengthy municipal service and broad institutional knowledge of the city’s history, local ordinances and state laws, George was called upon by several mayors and city leaders for his wisdom and counsel over the years. He served as an informal adviser to numerous city leaders and his rare knowledge and insight into municipal affairs will be greatly missed.