J.J. "Jack" Barry, 81, who served as president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, one of the largest trade unions in North America, died Aug. 28 at his home in Chevy Chase. He had pulmonary fibrosis.
Mr. Barry succeeded Charles H. Pillard, who had weathered a transition to automation among many of the industries in which IBEW represents workers, including construction, utilities, manufacturing, telecommunications and broadcasting.
Between 1986 and 2001, Mr. Barry was president of IBEW, a tenure marked by the deregulation of the electric utility industry. The construction branch, however, saw a rise in membership.
Membership had peaked in the 1970s at about 1 million and has been steady at about 750,000 for the past several years.
Mr. Barry was a former vice president and executive council member of the AFL-CIO, and he served under President Bill Clinton on the Competitiveness Policy Council and the President's Export Council. The councils gave him great say in legislation affecting workers' rights and the opening of foreign markets to goods produced by IBEW members.
John Joseph Barry was born in Syracuse, N.Y., the son of an electrician. After Navy service in the Pacific during World War II, he returned to his home town and became a union apprentice.
He worked for several contractors in New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland and rose within the union. In 1976, he became international vice president of the IBEW district that covers New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. From that post, he succeeded Pillard.
His marriage to Helen Dowling Barry ended in divorce.
Survivors include his wife of 30 years, Kitty Barry of Chevy Chase; four children from his first marriage, retired Navy Capt. John M. Barry of Annandale and Marie Murphy, Eileen Russell and Vincent Barry, all of Syracuse; a brother; 10 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.