Timothy F. Cleary, a former U.S. Department of Labor lawyer and chairman of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, died from cancer at his Bethesda, Md., home on Feb. 6. He was 84.
Cleary served four presidents during his time on the commission from 1973 to 1985. He chaired the panel from 1977 to 1980. The commission is an independent federal agency that hears challenges to penalties for labor and safety violations handed down by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Arthur Sapper, a partner at McDermott Will & Emery who worked with Cleary for six years at the commission, said Cleary was a calm but vigorous leader who inspired those who worked for him.
“He demanded and rewarded excellence in the work of his attorneys,” Sapper said. “But he would constantly remind us that the cases we worked with involved people and not just abstract concepts.”
Robert Gombar, another partner at McDermott Will who worked with Cleary at the commission for five years, said he was loyal and quick to stand up for his co-workers.
“He had an abiding concern for safety and the health of employees,” Gombar said. “But he was quick to laugh and was just a good man.”
After serving in World War II as a pilot with the U.S. Navy, Cleary spent 20 years with the New York Police Department, where he first served as a patrolman and a detective. After earning his J.D. from Fordham in 1959, he joined the police department’s legal bureau, which led to his hiring at the U.S. Department of Labor in 1967 and his time on the commission.
He also was a gold medal winner as a member of the one-mile relay team at the 1949 Millrose Games and was once invited to play baseball for the Washington Senators.
Cleary is survived by his wife of 62 years, Patricia Hanley Cleary, and six children. One daughter, Gail Cleary, is a lawyer for The BLT’s parent company, ALM Media.