John McMullen (engineer)

For other people with the same name, see John McMullen (disambiguation).

John J. McMullen, Ph.D (May 10, 1918 – September 16, 2005) was an American naval architect, businessman, and marine engineer, and former owner of the New Jersey Devils and Houston Astros. He founded the engineering firm John J. McMullen & Associates, and was the owner of Norton Lilly International[1] a shipping agent now based out of Mobile, Alabama, from 1972 until 2002.[2]

Personal life

John McMullen was born in 1918 in Jersey City, New Jersey. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1940 and rose to the rank of commander during a 15-year naval career. The Naval Academy honored his naval and ice hockey backgrounds by naming their hockey team's rink after him. He received a master's degree in naval architecture and engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a doctorate in mechanical engineering from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich.[3] He married Jacqueline Everhart and had three children. He died at his Montclair, New Jersey home in September 2005.[4]

Sports teams ownership

He bought the Colorado Rockies and in 1982 moved the team to East Rutherford, New Jersey renaming them the New Jersey Devils. He instituted the Dr. John J. McMullen Award in 1984, presented annually to "an individual or individuals who have supported amateur hockey throughout the state".[4] The team won two Stanley Cups during his ownership, in 1995 and 2000. Just before winning the second Cup, McMullen sold the team to YankeeNets. After his death, the team dedicated the 2005–06 season to him, wearing a small "JM" patch on their jerseys.[5]

McMullen also owned the Houston Astros for a period of time, buying the team from Ford Motor Company Credit in 1979.[6] Under McMullen's ownership, the Astros signed Alvin, Texas native Nolan Ryan to Baseball's first $1 million free agent contract and reached the playoffs for the first time in franchise history in 1980. McMullen sold his interest in the Astros to grocery distribution magnate Drayton McLane in 1993.[7]

Prior to purchasing the Astros, McMullen had been one of George Steinbrenner's limited partners in owning the Yankees. He later said, "Nothing is so limited as being one of George's limited partners."[8] McMullen had a close friendship with Yogi Berra. When Berra was fired as manager of the New York Yankees in 1985, McMullen offered him a job coaching the Astros, which Berra accepted.


John J. McMullen is commemorated in the U.S. Naval Academy's McMullen Hockey Arena, the Academy's biennial McMullen Naval History Symposium, and the McMullen Seapower Fellowship and Keynote McMullen Seapower Lecture that are associated with the naval history symposium.

McMullen was awarded the Naval Academy's Distinguished Graduate Award in 2000.[9]


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