John Searles, who as head of the Washington, D.C., Redevelopment Land Agency spent, in his words, "10 exciting years (1951 to 1961) as we transformed 500 acres in southwest Washington from slum to a vibrant residential and commercial area," died Oct. 21, 2005, one week after his 93rd birthday, in Ponte Vedra, Fla., where he had lived since 1979. He had prostate cancer.
John's career as an urban planner, most notably as executive director of what The Washington Post termed the "powerful" Redevelopment Land Agency, followed five years in the Army, where he rose from private to captain and won a Bronze Star for, as he put it, "ducking a bomb in the Philippines." In 1956 he won a Rockefeller Public Service Award, which permitted him to visit European cities to study their post-war reconstruction. From 1962 to 1977 he was executive vice president of the Metropolitan Development Association in Syracuse, helping to upgrade the economy and quality of life in central New York.
John was married in 1943 to Leota "Lee" Dell Johnson, who survives him, as do a daughter, Elizabeth S. Friedberg; sons John R. III and James C.; and four grandchildren.
The Class of 1934