SCRANTON — James Barrett McNulty, who served as the mayor of Scranton from 1982 to 1986, died Wednesday morning after a battle with cancer. He turned 71 on Saturday, Feb. 27.
According to Mayor William Courtright, McNulty’s death is a great loss, not only to the city itself, but to the entire region.
“People ask me, ‘What do you remember about him?’ I think it’s the influence that he had on everybody on Northeastern Pennsylvania, when it came to politics,” Courtright said. “Many people went to him for advice, to look for his opinion, as I did. So that’s basically what I remember about Jim.”
The current mayor said the last time he saw McNulty was about two months ago, when he visited him at his residence.
“I went to his house to see how he was doing, and we mostly talked about the city and politics,” he said. “He loved politics – loved every aspect of it. And we talked about the city, we talked about the Steamtown mall, what was going on there.”
One of the many accomplishments the former mayor is remembered for is the formation of Steamtown National Historic Site.
According to Steamtown Superintendent Debbie Conway, during his time as mayor, McNulty focused on a strategy for “economic rejuvenation of Scranton through tourism.”
“Mayor McNulty was instrumental in getting Steamtown USA to Scranton, which later led to the creation of the national park unit,” she said via email. “Last September we honored Mayor McNulty for his involvement in Steamtown as the grand marshall of Railfest. His passing is a great loss for Scranton and Steamtown lost a true advocate for the park.”
Conway also related a story from Frederick G. Bailey, Assistant General Manager of Steamtown USA and Director of Operations. She said Bailey remembered arriving in Scranton and being met by Mayor McNulty and driven by a Scranton policeman.
“Turn on your siren and make a little noise,” the mayor told the driver. “We want people to know that the Steamtown boys are around.”
McNulty served as political and media consultant for Senator John Yudichack’s successful campaign in 2010. The senator remembered him in an official statement released Wednesday afternoon:
“Jim McNulty was a consummate political leader whose service as Mayor of Scranton was defined by legacy projects like the Lackawanna Station Hotel and his indefatigable love for the city of Scranton … I will forever cherish our campaigns together where I learned the art of politics at the hands of one of the great masters of the trade.
“Jim McNulty’s keen wit and political instincts made him a valuable asset to any campaign, but most of all Jim’s heart and unyielding loyalty made him a treasured friend.
“My love and my deepest sympathies go out to Jim’s wife Evie and to the entire McNulty family.”
The following government officials also made statements following McNulty’s death:
• A collective statement from The Lackawanna County Commissioners:
“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Mayor James Barrett McNulty. He was a great man, leader and promoter of the City of Scranton. He had a tremendous vision for our community and cared about the people that he served. He was a true friend to many.
“He will be sorely missed. We want to extend our deepest sympathies to his wife, Evie Rafalko McNulty, and his family. We are a better community because of his efforts and service.”
• U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright:
“I was so sad to learn of Mayor McNulty’s passing this week. I have always admired his good humor, his passion for public service, and his staunch support for everything good and positive in northeastern Pennsylvania. Jim McNulty was a true ambassador for our whole area, and we are going to miss him. I join everyone in offering my sincerest condolences to Evie and the whole extended family.”
• U.S. Senator Bob Casey:
“Mayor McNulty was a dedicated public servant who contributed greatly to the City of Scranton and all of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Mayor McNulty was a visionary who saw a greatness in our city and its people. He fought tirelessly to make life better for residents. His joyful presence around Scranton left an indelible mark long after his mayoralty ended. Mayor McNulty was instrumental in making the Steamtown Historic Site and the Hilton at Lackawanna Station a reality. After his time in office, he became highly successful on TV and radio where he was known for his prescient insights. A love for Scranton was engrained in Jim McNulty’s bones and the city loved him back.
“This is truly a personal loss as Jim and his wife, Evie, were longtime friends of me and my wife, Terese. Our thoughts and prayers and those of the Casey family are with the McNulty family during this time.”
Reach Elizabeth Baumeister at 570-704-3943 or on Twitter @AbingtonJournal.