Get Involved
About Us
Our Members
Stephen McNamara

Stephen McNamara 1943–2010

Noted food and drug attorney Stephen Hull McNamara passed away from complications related to cancer on December 28, 2009, in Gaithersburg, Maryland. He was 66.1

A graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, McNamara was a partner of Hyman, Phelps & McNamara, PC of Washington DC, specializing in the regulation of food, drugs, and cosmetics. He also worked for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in several positions for many years and was a strong supporter of consumers’ access to and use of dietary supplements.

“Steve was a tireless and enthusiastic advocate for the dietary supplement and herbal products industry; he was loved and respected by all who knew him,” said friend Holly Bayne of The Law Office of Holly Bayne, PC (e-mail, May 11, 2010). “He was instrumental in drafting legislation that became the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA), and he once told me that he thought FDA had unfairly targeted dietary supplements and herbal products.”

McNamara’s former partner Paul Hyman of Hyman, Phelps & McNamara said he believed McNamara was so passionate about dietary supplements because he enjoyed the company of many in the dietary supplement industry: “He seemed to especially like some of the more pronounced personalities in the crowd,” said Hyman (oral communication, May 17, 2010). “He also believed in freedom of choice and thought people should be allowed to make their own decisions about their health.”

It was not unusual for McNamara to see both sides of a debate and decide his own place in it. He was an Irish Quaker who served in Vietnam from 1967–1969 as a chaplain’s assistant. He believed it was the “patriotic” thing to do, said Hyman. During his time in Vietnam, he received the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, and the Army Commendation Medal.1

According to Bayne, his favorite greeting was “peace.”

“In his personal and professional life, Steve was a peacemaker. He generally didn’t take sides but would try to bring matters to a reasonable conclusion,” said Hyman. “He had his own opinions, but he wasn’t someone who would get into an argument about politics.”

Before joining the law firm, McNamara was the senior vice president and general counsel for the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association, Inc. (now the Personal Care Products Council).1 At the FDA, he held the positions of staff attorney, senior trial attorney, and associate chief counsel of food. He also served as the acting chief counsel for a year and received the FDA Award of Merit twice.

“Steve was passionate about living and life in general—and he was passionate about the law and loved his work as a food lawyer,” said Bayne.

McNamara also enjoyed his Irish heritage and “loved all things Irish,” said Hyman. “He loved Irish music and would try to attend concerts by visiting musicians such as The Wolfe Tones, The Clancy Brothers, and Tommy Makem.”

One of McNamara’s hobbies was photography. According to Hyman, he particularly enjoyed taking photographs of his travels and of his family, and he loved hiking, especially in the Grand Canyon.

McNamara was also devoted to his family. “He loved his family deeply,” said Bayne. “When he would work on weekends, his loving wife Caroline of 43 years would come to the office with him so they could be together. She would read on the couch in his office, taking breaks with him to keep him company.”

“Steve was one of the finest people I have ever known,” said Loren Israelsen, executive director of the United Natural Products Alliance (e-mail to M. Blumenthal, July 9, 2010). “In the many years we worked together on DSHEA, I learned what it means to be a gentleman, a scholar and a friend. I went to visit Steve and his wife Caroline at their North Carolina cabin about a year ago. We sat on the porch listening to the coon hounds baying into the night sky. He knew he was ill, and you could sense his gratitude for moments like this. As I was leaving the next day, I buckled up into my rental car. He looked at me through the window and simply said, ‘peace.’ And that was Steve.”

McNamara is survived by his wife Caroline, his sister Ann McNamara Chase, his children Matthew McNamara and Deborah Hutchins, and 6 grandchildren.

—Kelly E. Lindner


1. Karst K, Wasserstein J. In Memoriam–Stephen H. McNamara. The FDA Law Blog. Available at: phelps/2009/12/in-memoriam-stephen-h-mcnamara-.html. Accessed May 5, 2010.