William (Bill) McLaughlin

1929 - 2013, Port Townsend, WA; formerly of Santa Barbara

William (Bill) McLaughlin died suddenly but peacefully in Port Townsend WA on November 29 at the age of 84, following a week spent visiting with friends and his son Michael. Bill’s wife Margaret passed away in 2008 after a marriage of 57 years. Bill had three sons, Timothy (wife Diane) of Cazenovia, New York, John, late of Telluride, Colorado, and Michael of San Jose, California.

Bill grew up in Upland and nearby Cucamonga in Southern California. A sailor from early on, Bill learned to sail in a boat he purchased with $80 that his father lent him. With his father serving as ‘crew’, Bill did well in the Pacific Coast Regatta and other races. While attending Santa Barbara High School, he also ran track as a high hurdler. Bill went on to earn his undergraduate degree at UC Santa Barbara where he met Margaret, his future wife. They were married March 3rd, 1951, days before he shipped out as an activated USN reserve. He then spent time off of Korea and in the China Sea as a navy signalman, primarily on the escort carrier CVE-114, the Rendova.

Bill returned home to his new bride and first son Tim, mustering out in 1952. He continued his education, earning his teaching credential, Master’s degree, and school administrative certificate at UCLA. He taught social studies at Newport Harbor High School before moving back to Santa Barbara to head the social studies department and coach a winning track team at the new San Marcos High School. He moved into administrative work, eventually becoming Assistant Superintendent of the Santa Barbara School system.

In Santa Barbara schools he hit his stride, learning the difficult balance of laws, policy and politics that are involved in working with the various educational stakeholders; students, parents, faculty, administrative staff, and the Board of Education, each with different perspectives and concerns. One of his proudest achievements while at Santa Barbara was the building of Dos Pueblos High School in Goleta.

Bill joined the Federal Office of Education (within HEW) at the Region Nine office in San Francisco, where he worked with educators and community activists throughout the West Coast, Hawaii, and the Trust Territories on such programs as the "Model Cities" initiative of 1966, part of President Lyndon Johnson's "War on Poverty". He particularly enjoyed his commutes from Tiburon in Marin County to San Francisco via ferry during these years.

After two years in San Francisco he established the new Office of Education Region Ten office in Seattle, with responsibility for working with educators in the Northwestern states. His work in Seattle included highly innovative projects, such as the then novel satellite broadcasting of educational programs to remote Alaskan towns and villages. The family moved again in 1973 to Virginia, where Bill assumed responsibility for all ten regional offices within the Office of Education and then the Department of Education. He became a charter member of the Senior Executive Service (S.E.S.) in 1978.

In 1981, Bill was informed that the new presidential administration wished to dispense with his services. Due to his S.E.S status, he was able to transfer into the Education Department's Office of Inspector General as Assistant Inspector General for Management and Policy. Working in an environment that was new to him, he adapted and earned "Outstanding" or "Superior" performance evaluations for his work in this new role.

He was fortunate that at the end of his working life he was able to return to special education, a field he studied at UCLA. He served as the acting Director of the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) assisting public institutions with issues as diverse as educational curricula, head trauma research, and A.D.A. compliance. A highlight was when he represented the United States on a trip to rehabilitation centers in India.

While in the Washington DC area, Bill and his wife Margaret established the National Capitol chapter of the UCSB alumni association. While Margaret served as Chapter President, Bill helped students adapt to life in the nation’s capital and became a member of the UCSB Alumni Board. For his alumni work and his career accomplishments in education, Bill was awarded the UCSB Outstanding Alumni Award.

Upon retiring from Washington D.C. to Washington State in the mid nineties, he became active in politics, something precluded during his career in the Federal civil service. He worked with the Washington State Democratic party, guiding local candidates door to door in Port Ludlow, serving as a state committee member, arranging presidential caucuses and more. For his efforts in Jefferson County and Washington State as a whole, he was awarded the Warren G. Magnuson Lifetime Achievement Award by the Washington State Democratic Party. He and Margaret became active members of the Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. In his spare time he sailed his small sailboat "Geist", tended his garden, and entertained a stream of visiting family and friends to the Pacific Northwest.

Bill is survived by his two sons Timothy and Michael McLaughlin, sister Barbara Johnson of Santa Barbara, California, and a large extended family.

A memorial service will be held at 3 pm on Sunday, December 29th at the Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 2333 San Juan Ave., Port Townsend Washington.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Alzheimer’s Association (

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