H. John “Jack” Michel Jr. of Concord Township

H. John “Jack” Michel Jr., 71, died Saturday, May 26, at his farm in Concord Township. 

John “Jack” Michel Jr.

Jack was a leading securities, mergers and acquisitions lawyer in the Philadelphia office of Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP for 33 years. Throughout his long career at Drinker, Jack also had a number of management positions, including head of its Business and Finance Department, head of its Intellectual Property Practice Group and managing partner of the firm. He mentored and recruited hundreds of lawyers to the firm and helped steer its direction by drafting the firm’s strategic plan.

In addition to his legal career, Jack and his wife, Diana McCarthy, also a partner at Drinker, helped co-found Beaver Valley Conservancy, a non-profit group devoted to conserving land in Beaver Valley in Pennsylvania and Delaware. The group engineered the defeat in 2016 of a plan by Woodlawn Trustees to develop 270 acres in the Valley. The development fight lasted close to 5 years and resulted in successful litigation in which a state court rejected Concord Township’s approval of the plan. The court decision was the first known successful defeat of a housing development on the grounds that it violated the Pennsylvania Environmental Rights Amendment and set the land up for a purchase by Mt. Cuba, Brandywine Conservancy, The Conservation Fund and many other donors. The land is expected to be donated by The Conservation Fund to the First State National Historical Park in the near future. At the time of his death, Jack was still fighting to save 60 more acres of land in Beaver Valley from development.

Prior to his legal career, Jack was a recognized 18th century American rural and cultural historian, having won the prestigious Abbott Lowell Cummings Award presented by the Vernacular Architecture Forum for his paper: “In a Manner and Fashion Suitable to Their Degree: An Investigation of the Material Culture of Early Rural Pennsylvania.” He is a former fellow of the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and the Economic History Research Center at the Eleutherian Mills, Hagley Foundation. He also taught history for several years at the University of Delaware. More recently, he documented for the Concord Township Historical Society the early settlement patterns of the Quakers who came to Beaver Valley in the 17th and 18th century. 

In addition to his wife, Diana, Jack is survived by three step-daughters, Jeanne McCarthy of Media, Julie McCarthy of Croton on Hudson, N.Y., and Kelly McCarthy of Henderson, Nev., as well as seven grandchildren.

A viewing will be held at Chandler Funeral Home, 2506 Concord Pike, Wilmington, Delaware 19803 from 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, May 31. A Mass of Christian Burial will be at 10 a.m. on Friday, June 1, at St. Joseph’s on the Brandywine Church, 10 Old Church Rd, Wilmington, Delaware 19807. Interment will follow at St. Joseph’s on the Brandywine Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The Beaver Valley Conservancy Fund at the Delaware Community Foundation, 100 West 10th Street, Wilmington, Delaware 19801.

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