Former New Bedford Mayor and longtime judge John A. “Jack” Markey has passed away at the age of 89.

According to WBSM’s Chris McCarthy, Markey passed away Sunday at his home.

“He was an ordinary man who lived an extraordinary life,” his son, State Representative Christopher Markey, told McCarthy.

The elder Markey served as the 43rd Mayor of New Bedford, elected to six terms, from 1972-1982. He resigned in 1982 to accept a judicial appointment from Governor Edward King for New Bedford’s Third District Court. He retired from the court in 1999.

Courtesy City of New Bedford
Courtesy City of New Bedford

As Mayor of New Bedford, Markey made a significant investment in the preservation of downtown New Bedford’s Historic District, infusing $3.5 million of federal community development funds into the then-dilapidated district in 1974.

The funds “were used to bury utility lines, resurface the streets with cobblestone and the sidewalks with slate, install historic street lights, enhance landscaping, relocate the Andrew Robeson House and restore the Rodman Candleworks, Sundial and Double Bank buildings,” according to a 2016 City of New Bedford release announcing the City-owned plaza at the corner of Front Street and Union Street was being named in Markey’s honor.

City of New Bedford via Twitter
City of New Bedford via Twitter

Markey also made national headlines during negotiations with the firefighters union, when he accused the union of trying to “strip the city.” Markey famously took his pants off and said, “Go head, take my pants, too,” and the Standard-Times photo of the moment was published in newspapers across the country.

In 1982, when Boston Herald columnist Peter Lucas referred to New Bedford as "Pit City" in a column, Markey blasted Lucas and demanded both a retraction and an apology, and then took Lucas – who admitted he'd never been to New Bedford – on a tour of the city.

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According to an online biography, Markey was born in New Bedford on December 3, 1934 to Stephen and Elizabeth Markey. He received a Bachelor of Science from Stonehill College in 1958, and his Juris Doctor from Howard University in 1965. He was also honored with a Masters in Public Service in 1980 from Southeastern Massachusetts University (now UMass Dartmouth).

Before becoming mayor and a judge, Markey served as vice president and general manager of the Catholic Travel Office in Washington from 1958-60, as a management specialist for OnBoard Metropolitan Inc.-Hodgson Travel Service in New Bedford from 1966-67, and then entered into private law practice in 1967.

Markey married Carol Ann Tweedie in 1958, and they had four children: John Jr., Carol Ann, Christopher and Jennifer, as well as numerous grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.

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