John R. Quarles Jr., former environmental partner and firm chair of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, died October 29 at the age of 77.

Before joining Morgan Lewis as a partner in 1977, Quarles held several positions in the U.S. government. He joined the U.S. Department of the Interior as assistant to the undersecretary of the Interior for environmental planning in 1969. He also worked on President Richard Nixon’s first environmental message to Congress in 1970, and assisted in forming the Environmental Protection Agency that same year, according to a memorial Web page created by Morgan Lewis. Quarles served as deputy administrator of the EPA for four years, with two stints as acting administrator.

With the EPA, Quarles launched a nationwide water pollution permit program, built a tough enforcement arm, testified before Congress many times and wrote a book detailing his impressions of the early years of the EPA, a release said.

During his time with Morgan Lewis, Quarles helped educate clients who had not developed their own in-house environmental capacities through his representations, books, articles and speeches, as well as the creation of an “Environmental Deskbook,” a release said.

He worked for decades for the National Environmental Development Association, an industry trade group, which hired him to litigate and lobby on Clean Air Act issues. Quarles also formed two industry groups that currently continue as Morgan Lewis clients, according to a release.

As well as leading Morgan Lewis’ environmental practice and sitting as a member of the executive and allocation committees, Quarles served as chairman of the governing board from 1994 to 1995.

Quarles received his bachelor’s degree from Yale University in 1957 and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1961. Before entering government service, he was an attorney with the Boston firm of Herrick, Smith, Donald, Farley & Ketchum, a release said.

He withdrew from the Morgan Lewis partnership in 2004 and became senior counsel, a position from which he retired in 2006. He was named an honoree by the Environmental Law Institute in 2005.

Quarles is survived by his wife, Barbara, and four adult children, as well as 10 grandchildren. •