John C. Bryson, age 89, passed away on Saturday July 4, 2020, from complications of Parkinson’s disease.

He was born in Sylva, N.C., on Sept. 29, 1930, to the late Stella Cowan Bryson and James Frank Bryson. Following graduation from high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and served 1950-54, including a combat assignment in Korea.

Upon completing service to his country, he returned to his beloved North Carolina where he completed a bachelor of science degree in chemistry at Western Carolina University. After completing his bachelor’s degree, John attended Syracuse University, where he earned a master of science degree in environmental engineering.

In September 1961, John brought his family to Delaware where he was recruited to serve as director of the laboratory for Delaware Water Pollution Commission. In 1963, he became acting director of the Water Pollution Commission and three years later was promoted to director of Water and Air Resource Commission. In 1970, he became director of the Division of Environmental Control within the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC).

In 1973, Governor Tribbitt appointed John Bryson as the second secretary of the DNREC. Through his hands-on leadership, John convinced the Delaware General Assembly to enact strong environmental protection legislation, including The Wetlands Protection Act, The Beach Preservation Act and the Delaware Solid Waste Authority Act. He also created the Environmental Protection Officer corps to effectively enforce DNREC rules and regulations, and was instrumental in other groundbreaking environmental protection initiatives.

Following his retirement from the State of Delaware, John became director of Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council covering six states and three 200-mile offshore fishing regions. He served in this role until his retirement in 1993.

John dedicated his career to promoting environmental improvements, positioning the State of Delaware with the capability to manage and enhance the state’s valuable natural resources. 

His visionary work in the area of environmental planning and control has provided thousands of Delawareans a better quality of life.

John also enjoyed the outdoors and was an avid hunter, fisherman and gardener his entire life. When not engaged in outdoor activities he also enjoyed making fudge and peanut brittle.

In addition to his parents he was pre-deceased by his first wife, Rosetta Smith Bryson.

He is survived by his current wife of 23 years, Karen Smith Bryson; children, Tom (Judith), Bill (Sharon), Roger (Lisa) and Steven, Dawn Smith Boyce (Dan) of Wilton, Conn., Brian Smith (Carol) and 12 grandchildren.

Services will be held today (Thursday, July 9, 2020) at 11 a.m. at Torbert Funeral Chapel South, 1145 E. Lebanon Road (Rt.10), Dover, DE.

Graveside services will be held on Saturday, July 11, 2020, at 11 a.m. at the East Fork Cemetery with Rev. Mike Farmer officiating.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions be made to the Donation Processing, The Michael J. Fox Foundation, P.O. Box 5014, Hagerstown, MD 21741-5014.

An online registry is available at

Appalachian Funeral Services of Sylva, N.C., is serving the family.