When Haverhill adopted its strong mayor form of government 46 years ago, James Waldron took the helm of the community.
Those who knew him remember him as a devoted city servant who kept the city running efficiently during his term as mayor from 1968 to 1971. Under the current form of city government, he was elected as the city’s first real mayor. Before that, the “mayor’’ was simply an honorary title for the City Council president.
But Waldron, who died last week at age 85, was much more than a politician. He served with the Army in the Korean War and had a proud ethnic heritage as a “green-blooded” Irishman. He asked to be buried in Claremorris, County Mayo, Ireland.
He had strong educational values, especially when it came to Boston College. He prided himself in becoming a “double Eagle’’ with both an undergraduate and law degree.
He was a strong supporter of downtown urban renewal, adding businesses that brought revenue to the city when he was mayor and later, as a lawyer representing developers who wanted to bring business and housing to Haverhill.
He was the city’s eldest-practicing attorney, with a practice that spanned six decades. It was said if you had a dollar for all the pro bono work he performed, you’d be a rich man.
Mayor James Fiorentini said the American flag at City Hall will be at half staff in honor of Waldron the day of his funeral.
“As our first strong mayor, Jim was a visionary for our city,’’ Fiorentini said. “He was a good friend with a great wealth of knowledge about our city. I will sorely miss Jim and his friendship. My sympathy goes out to his wife and family.”
One of his favorite times of the year was the annual family reunion weekend on Cape Cod, where he was the founder and lifetime president of the Lemmings Swimming Association.