Nelson G. Gross

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Nelson Gerard Gross (January 9, 1932 – September 17, 1997) was an American Republican Party politician who served in the New Jersey General Assembly and as Chairman of the New Jersey Republican State Committee. His political career ended in 1974 when he was convicted on federal charges involving the 1969 campaign of Governor William T. Cahill. After his prison term he went on to a lucrative business career as a real estate developer and restaurateur, before being kidnapped and murdered in September 1997.

Early years[edit]

Gross was born in 1932 in Teaneck, New Jersey to Albert S. and Rose (Nelson) Gross.[1] He attended Teaneck High School and Yale University. After graduating from Columbia Law School he joined the law firm run by his father Albert in Englewood, New Jersey. He married Leah Binger in 1953.[2] After a divorce, he married Edyth Noel Love, a Guggenheim heiress, on August 26, 1960.[3]

Political career[edit]

After briefly serving as an assistant United States Attorney, Gross became involved in the Bergen County Republican Party organization, then controlled by Walter H. Jones. In 1961, at the age of 29, he was elected to a term in the New Jersey General Assembly. In 1966 he took over as chairman of the Bergen County Republican Committee, his former mentor.[4]

Gross supported Richard M. Nixon over Nelson Rockefeller in the 1968 Republican presidential primaries. New Jersey Senator Clifford P. Case had launched a "favorite son" candidacy, with the aim of delivering the entire slate of New Jersey delegates to Rockefeller. Gross foiled this plan, managing to get 18 of the state's 40 delegates to support Nixon, thus helping to ensure Nixon's nomination at the Republican National Convention.[4]

Gross served in 1969 as Coordinator on International Narcotics Matters in the Department of State and was sent by Secretary of State William P. Rogers to Uruguay.[5]

In 1969 Gross supported William T. Cahill in the Republican primary for Governor of New Jersey. He organized support for Cahill in Bergen County, which proved to be critical in the primary election. After the primary Gross was rewarded by being named Chairman of the New Jersey Republican State Committee by Cahill.[6]

Gross resigned from the chairmanship in April 1970 and announced his candidacy for United States Senator, with the backing of Governor Cahill.[7] Cahill's support helped him win the Republican primary, but he lost in the general election to the Democratic incumbent, Harrison A. Williams, by about 250,000 votes.

In 1971 Gross was appointed by President Nixon as special assistant for international narcotics control in the office of the Secretary of State. In early 1973 he returned to New Jersey to practice law.[4]

Conviction[edit]

In early 1973 the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of New Jersey began investigating irregularities involving campaign finances during Cahill's 1969 gubernatorial campaign. Gross was indicted in May 1973 on five counts of tax fraud and perjury. He was charged with advising businessman William H. Preis to conceal a $5,000 campaign contribution as a tax-deductible business expense and then telling Preis to lie to a federal grand jury. Gross was convicted on all five counts in March 1974.[8]

After several appeals failed, Gross surrendered to federal authorities to begin a two-year prison term in June 1976.[9] He would eventually serve just over six months of the term.[10]

Business career[edit]

After Gross was paroled in December 1977, he returned to Bergen County, managing a real estate business and operating the Binghamton Ferryboat, a restaurant converted from an old ferry moored off the shoreline of Edgewater, New Jersey. He was a principal in the Jinep Corporation, which held the lease on a 12-acre (49,000 m2) waterfront lot in Edgewater, with tenants including a tennis club, a movie theater, a motel, a strip mall and an office building.[11]

Gross and his wife Noel maintained homes in Saddle River, New Jersey; Bridgehampton, New York; and Palm Beach, Florida. Though Nelson Gross had abandoned his political career, Noel Love Gross remained active in Republican party politics. During the Reagan administration she was a member of the United States delegation to the United Nations, and she later served on the Republican National Committee.[4] She is a long-serving commissioner and former chairwoman of the New Jersey Racing Commission.[12]

Kidnapping and murder[edit]

Gross went missing on the morning of September 17, 1997. He was last seen driving his BMW on River Road in Edgewater near his restaurant, the Binghamton Ferryboat. Other men were seen in the car with Gross as he drove to a bank near the restaurant and withdrew $20,000.[11] A weeklong manhunt ensued, ending with the discovery of Gross's slashed and bludgeoned body on a wooded embankment between the Henry Hudson Parkway and the Hudson River.[13]

Three teenagers from Washington Heights, Manhattan, one of whom worked as a busboy at the Binghamton, were arrested for the robbery and murder of Gross, eventually pleading guilty to the crimes. They admitted to abducting Gross at gunpoint, forcing him to drive to a bank to withdraw money, and then killing him in a secluded spot along the Henry Hudson Parkway.[14] Two of the accomplices were given the maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, while a third, who had entered into a plea agreement, was sentenced to 17 years.[15]

Dinah Lenney, Gross's daughter by his first wife Leah, wrote a memoir about her father's murder, Bigger than Life: A Murder, a Memoir, published in 2007 by University of Nebraska Press (ISBN 978-0803229761).

References[edit]

  1. ^ Myers, William Starr. The Story of New Jersey (1945). Reprinted as Prominent Families of New Jersey (Genealogical Publishing Company, 2000).
  2. ^ "Leah Binger Engaged to Nelson G. Gross". The New York Times, June 14, 1953. Accessed March 24, 2008.
  3. ^ "Edyth N. Love Bride of Lawyer In Church Here". The New York Times, August 27, 1960. Accessed March 24, 2008.
  4. ^ a b c d "From Political Heights to a Quiet Life in the Suburbs". The New York Times, September 25, 1997. Accessed March 24, 2008.
  5. ^ The Office of the Historian, Document 574: Memorandum From Secretary of State Rogers to President Nixon, Washington, July 28, 1972.
  6. ^ "Cahill and Jersey Gubernatorial Campaign Aides to Make Full Financial Disclosures". The New York Times, June 10, 1969. Accessed March 24, 2008.
  7. ^ "Gross Quits as G.O.P. Chairman In Jersey to Run for the Senate". The New York Times, April 9, 1970. Accessed March 24, 2008.
  8. ^ "Gross Is Convicted Of All 5 Charges In Campaign Fraud". The New York Times, March 30, 1974. Accessed March 24, 2008.
  9. ^ "Gross Surrenders to Begin A 2-Year U.S. Prison Term". The New York Times, June 3, 1976. Accessed March 24, 2008.
  10. ^ "Gross Will Be Paroled on Dec. 10". The New York Times, October 20, 1976. Accessed March 24, 2008.
  11. ^ a b "Nelson Gross, Prominent State Republican, Is Missing". The New York Times, September 20, 1997. Accessed March 24, 2008.
  12. ^ Management, Meadowlands Racetrack. Accessed March 24, 2008.
  13. ^ "Youths Accused of Killing New Jersey Millionaire". The New York Times, September 25, 1997. Accessed March 24, 2008.
  14. ^ "3 Teen-Agers Plead Guilty in Businessman's Killing". The New York Times, February 11, 1998. Accessed March 24, 2008.
  15. ^ "2 Are Given Up to 30 Years In Murder of a Millionaire". The New York Times, October 8, 1998. Accessed March 24, 2008.

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Webster B. Todd
Chairman of the New Jersey Republican State Committee
1969–1970
Succeeded by
John E. Dimon
Preceded by
Bernard M. Shanley
Republican Nominee for the U.S. Senate (Class 1) from New Jersey
1970
Succeeded by
David A. Norcross