John J. McMullen, Ph.D (May 10, 1918 – September 16, 2005) was an American naval architect, businessman, and marine engineer, and former owner of the New Jersey Devils and Houston Astros. He founded the engineering firm John J. McMullen & Associates, and was the owner of Norton Lilly International[1] a shipping agent now based out of Mobile, Alabama, from 1972 until 2002.[2]

Personal life

McMullen was born in 1918 in Jersey City, New Jersey. He grew up in Montclair, New Jersey, where he attended Montclair High School, graduating in 1936.[3] He later graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1940 and rose to the rank of commander during a 15-year naval career. The Naval Academy honored his naval and ice hockey backgrounds by naming their hockey team's rink after him. He received a master's degree in naval architecture and engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a doctorate in mechanical engineering from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich.[4] He married Jacqueline Everhart and had three children. He died at his Montclair, New Jersey home in September 2005.[5]

Sports teams ownership

He bought the Colorado Rockies and in 1982 moved the team to East Rutherford, New Jersey renaming them the New Jersey Devils. He instituted the Dr. John J. McMullen Award in 1984, presented annually to "an individual or individuals who have supported amateur hockey throughout the state".[5] The team won two Stanley Cups during his ownership, in 1995 and 2000. Just before winning the second Cup, McMullen sold the team to YankeeNets. After his death, the team dedicated the 2005–06 season to him, wearing a small "JM" patch on their jerseys.[6]

McMullen also owned the Houston Astros for a period of time, buying the team from Ford Motor Credit Company in 1979.[7] Under McMullen's ownership, the Astros signed Alvin, Texas native Nolan Ryan to Baseball's first $1 million free agent contract and reached the playoffs for the first time in franchise history in 1980. McMullen sold his interest in the Astros to grocery distribution magnate Drayton McLane in 1993.[8]

Prior to purchasing the Astros, McMullen had been one of George Steinbrenner's limited partners in owning the Yankees. He later said, "Nothing is so limited as being one of George's limited partners."[9] McMullen had a close friendship with Yogi Berra. When Berra was fired as manager of the New York Yankees in 1985, McMullen offered him a job coaching the Astros, which Berra accepted.


John J. McMullen is commemorated in the U.S. Naval Academy's McMullen Hockey Arena, the Academy's biennial McMullen Naval History Symposium, and the McMullen Seapower Fellowship and Keynote McMullen Seapower Lecture that are associated with the naval history symposium.

McMullen was awarded the Naval Academy's Distinguished Graduate Award in 2000.[10]

The New Jersey Devils honored McMullen by making him the first inductee into the team's Ring of Honor in 2017 with the installation of a permanent banner at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.[11]


  1. ^ Nash, Margo (September 17, 2000). "Child's Love of Ships Becomes Man's Passion for Marine Artwork". New York Times. Secaucus. p. 11. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 23, 2011.
  2. ^ "John J. McMullen Dies at 87; Ex-Owner of Devils and Astros". New York Times. Montclair. September 18, 2005. p. 34. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 23, 2011.
  3. ^ History of The New Jersey Devils. 2007. p. 68.
  4. ^ "John J. McMullen, at 87; ex-owner of Astros, Devils". Boston Globe. 2005-09-18. Retrieved 2010-02-26.
  5. ^ a b "Dr. John J. McMullen (1918-2005)". New Jersey Devils. Retrieved 2008-12-03.
  6. ^ "New Jersey Devils - In Memoriam of". New Jersey Devils. Archived from the original on 2008-09-15. Retrieved 2008-12-03.
  7. ^ Houston Astros history – 1979 season
  8. ^ Houston Astros history – 1993 season
  9. ^ Sandomir, Richard (July 15, 2010). "Praise for Steinbrenner From Limited Partners". The New York Times.
  10. ^ "History of Distinguished Graduate Award Recipients". Archived from the original on 2012-06-28.
  11. ^ "John McMullen Set To Become First Inductee Into Devils Ring Of Honor". 2017-01-04. Retrieved 2020-07-15.