|47th Governor of New Jersey|
January 15, 1974 – January 19, 1982
|Preceded by||William Cahill|
|Succeeded by||Thomas Kean|
|Prosecutor of Essex County|
February 16, 1959 – January 11, 1968
|Appointed by||Robert B. Meyner|
|Preceded by||Charles Webb|
|Succeeded by||Joseph P. Lordi|
Brendan Thomas Byrne
April 1, 1924
West Orange, New Jersey, U.S.
|Died||January 4, 2018 (aged 93)|
Livingston, New Jersey, U.S.
(m. 1953; div. 1993)
|Education||Princeton University (BA)|
Harvard University (LLB)
|Branch/service||United States Army|
|Years of service||1943–1945|
|Unit||U.S. Army Air Corps|
Brendan Thomas Byrne (April 1, 1924 – January 4, 2018) was an American politician, statesman, and prosecutor, serving as the 47th Governor of New Jersey from 1974 to 1982.
A member of the Democratic Party, Byrne started his career as a private attorney and worked in the New Jersey state government starting in 1955 before resuming his legal career after leaving office in 1982.
During his time as Governor, Byrne oversaw the opening of the first gambling casinos in Atlantic City, expanded the oceanside municipality's economic base, and established the New Jersey Department of the Public Advocate. He also saved a large majority of woodlands and wildlife areas in the state from development.
In the late 1970s, an FBI wiretap recorded local mobsters calling Byrne "the man who couldn't be bought," a reference to his high ethical standards. The public's response to this propelled his popularity during an era when many New Jersey politicians were being mired in corruption scandals. Byrne used the quote as the slogan for his successful re-election bid.
From 1981 to 1996, the Meadowlands Arena at the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford, New Jersey, formerly home to the New Jersey Devils of the National Hockey League, New Jersey Nets of the National Basketball Association, and Seton Hall Pirates men's basketball was named Brendan Byrne Arena in his honor. The arena was then renamed Continental Airlines Arena, followed by IZOD Center.
Brendan Byrne State Park, located in New Lisbon, New Jersey was also named in his honor.
Early life and education
Byrne was born and raised in West Orange, New Jersey. He was the fourth child among five children of ethnic Irish American Catholic parents Francis A. Byrne (1886–1974), a local public safety commissioner and Genevieve Brennan Byrne (1888–1969).
In 1942, Byrne graduated from West Orange High School, where he had served as both the president of the debate club and senior class president. He briefly enrolled at Seton Hall University, only to leave in March the following year to join the U.S. Army. During World War II, Byrne served in the U.S. Army Air Corps, receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross and four Air Medals. By the time of his discharge from active service in 1945, he had achieved the rank of lieutenant.
After the war, Byrne attended Princeton University for two years, where he studied in the School of Public and International Affairs. Due to the war, he spent only two years on campus, finishing his undergraduate thesis while enrolled at Harvard Law School. He graduated from Princeton in 1949 after completing a 95-page long senior thesis titled "Proportional Representation in Municipal Government", and went on to obtain his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1951.
In October 1955, Byrne was appointed an assistant counsel to Governor Robert B. Meyner. The following year he became the Governor's acting executive secretary. In 1958, Byrne was appointed the deputy attorney general responsible for the Essex County Prosecutor's Office. The following year, Governor Meyner appointed him as the Essex County Prosecutor. Governor Hughes reappointed Byrne to this same office in 1964 following the end of his first five-year term. From 1968 to 1970, Byrne served as the president of the Board of Public Utilities Commissioners.
In 1970, Byrne was appointed by Governor William T. Cahill to the Superior Court. He served as the assignment judge for Morris, Sussex, and Warren Counties starting in 1972. In April 1973, Byrne resigned from the Superior court to run for governor.
1973 gubernatorial victory
Byrne defeated Ann Klein and Ralph DeRose in the 1973 Democratic primary to win the party's nomination for governor. In the November general election, Byrne won by beating the Republican nominee Congressman Charles Sandman in a landslide. Sandman had defeated the incumbent Governor Cahill in the primary. Byrne's landslide margin of victory was so vast that it allowed Democrats to capture control both chambers of the state legislature with supermajorities.
First term as governor of New Jersey
On January 15, 1974, Byrne was sworn in as the 47th governor of New Jersey.
Some of the policies enacted by the first Byrne administration include: the implementation of New Jersey's first state income tax, the establishment of spending limits on local governments, county governments, school districts, and the state, the establishment of both the Department of the Public Advocate and the Department of Energy, and the implementation of public financing for future gubernatorial general elections. Although Byrne claimed during the 1973 campaign that a personal income tax would not be necessary for "the foreseeable future", he eventually "muscled through" the unpopular income tax, New Jersey's first, in 1976; it earned him the nickname "One-Term Byrne".
1977 gubernatorial reelection
Byrne faced ten opponents in the 1977 Democratic primary, including future governor James Florio. However, Byrne obtained the party's nomination, and went on to defeat his Republican opponent, State Senator Raymond Bateman, in the general election on November 8, 1977. This despite the fact that in early 1977, three-quarters of voters disapproved of his job performance and in polls taken in the summer, he trailed Bateman by 17 points.
Byrne and Bateman debated nine times and Byrne used the governorship to his advantage, signing bills and appearing with cabinet members all over the state, benefiting from a visit by President Carter and turning what was his biggest weakness, the income tax, into a strength. Shortly before the 1977 gubernatorial election, New Jersey homeowners began receiving rebate checks (funded by state income tax revenues) to offset their property taxes, while Bateman's plan—replacing the state income tax with an increased sales tax—was widely criticized.
Second term as governor of New Jersey
During his second term, Byrne focused on policies such as: the passage of the Pinelands Protection Act, expansion of major highways, including the Atlantic City Expressway and Interstate 287, upgrades to sewage systems, further development of the Meadowlands Sports Complex, and casino-hotel development in Atlantic City. He is the most recent Democrat to be elected governor twice. The other Governors elected to two terms (Thomas Kean, Christie Whitman, and Chris Christie) have all been Republicans.
Cabinet and administration
|The Byrne Cabinet|
|Governor||Brendan Byrne||January 15, 1974 – January 19, 1982|
|Secretary of Agriculture||Phillip Alampi||July 2, 1956 – June 30, 1982|
|Attorney General||William F. Hyland||January 15, 1974 – January 17, 1978|
|John J. Degnan||January 17, 1978 – March 5, 1981|
|Judith J. A Yaskin||March 5, 1981 – March 26, 1981 (acting)|
|James R. Zazzali||March 26, 1981 – January 19, 1982|
|Commissioner of Banking||Richard F. Schaub||February 26, 1973 – August 31, 1976|
|Robert F. Wagner||September 1976 – May 1977|
|Mary L. Parell||May 2, 1977 – February 22, 1978|
|Robert R. Bianchi||February 24, 1978 – February 8, 1982|
|President of the |
Civil Service Commission
|James A. Alloway||June 8, 1970 – September 23, 1976|
|S. Howard Woodson||September 23, 1976 – March 23, 1982|
|Commissioner of Community Affairs||Sidney L. Willis||1974 (acting)|
|Patricia Q. Sheehan||January 17, 1974 – December 1, 1978|
|Joseph A. LeFante||December 15, 1978 – February 10, 1982|
|Commissioner of Corrections||Robert Mulcahy||November 8, 1976 – January 17, 1978|
|William H. Fauver||June 15, 1978 – December 31, 1997 (Acting: January 18, 1974 – June 15, 1978)|
|Defense Adjutant General||Major General William R. Sharp||April 23, 1970 – March 20, 1974|
|Major General Wilfred C. Menard Jr.||March 20, 1974 – February 10, 1982|
|Commissioner of Education||Fred G. Burke||July 1, 1974 – March 31, 1982|
|Commissioner of Energy||Anthony J. Grossi, President (PUC)||1972 – 1975|
|Joel R. Jacobson, President (PUC)||1975 – July 20, 1977|
|Joel R. Jacobson, Commissioner (DOE)||July 21, 1977 – December 22, 1981|
|Charles A Richman||1981 – 1982 (acting)|
|Commissioner of Environmental Protection||Richard J Sullivan||May 5, 1970 – May 6, 1974|
|Joseph T. Barber||1974 (acting)|
|David J. Bardin||May 9, 1974 – May 6, 1977|
|Rocco D. Ricci||July 10, 1977 – May 12, 1978 (Acting: 1977)|
|Betty Wilson||1978 (acting)|
|Daniel Joseph O'Hern||May 12, 1978 – July 16, 1979|
|Betty Wilson||1979 (acting)|
|Jerry F. English||August 23, 1979-March 1, 1982|
|Commissioner of Health||James R. Cowan||January 29, 1970 – May 13, 1974|
|Joanne E. Finley||June 17, 1974 – March 5, 1982|
|Chancellor of Higher Education||Ralph A. Dungan||June 26, 1967 – August 9, 1977|
|T. Edward Hollinder||August 9, 1977 – June 30, 1990|
|Commissioner of Human Services||Ann Klein, DIA||1974 – October 31, 1976|
|Ann Klein, DHS||November 1, 1976 – February 5, 1981|
|Timothy Carden||March 17, 1981 – February 25, 1982|
|Commissioner of Insurance||Richard C. McDonough||February 14, 1972 – January 21, 1974|
|James J. Sheeran||January 21, 1974 – January 25, 1982|
|Commissioner of Labor and Workforce |
|Joseph A. Hoffman||1974 – 1976|
|John J. Horn||1976 – 1982|
|Public Advocate||Stanley Van Ness||May 21, 1974 – February 11, 1982|
|Secretary of State||J. Edward Crabiel||January 15, 1974 – July 11, 1977|
|F. Joseph Carragher||1974 (acting)|
|George W. Lee||1977 (acting)|
|Donald Lan||July 11, 1977 – January 19, 1982|
|Commissioner of Transportation||Alan Sagner||January 21, 1974 – August 15, 1977|
|Russell Mullen||August 15, 1977 – May 22, 1978|
|Louis Gambaccini||May 22, 1978 – September 25, 1981|
|Anne Canby||November 16, 1981 – April 16, 1982 (Acting: August 13, 1981 – November 16, 1981)|
|State Treasurer||Richard Leone||January 15, 1974 – December 10, 1976|
|Clifford A. Goldman||February 18, 1977 – January 19, 1982 (Acting: 1976 – 1977)|
After leaving office in 1982, Governor Byrne became a senior partner at Carella, Byrne, Bain, Gilfillan, Cecchi, Stewart & Olstein in Roseland, New Jersey (now Carella, Byrne, Cecchi, Olstein, Brody and Agnello, P.C.). Additionally, Byrne and his successor as governor, Thomas Kean, co-wrote a weekly column in The Star-Ledger, containing their "dialogue" on state and national public affairs and politics. He has also taught courses at Princeton University and Rutgers University.
Despite not supporting all of his policies, Byrne said that Governor Chris Christie should run for president in 2016, calling Christie "the best candidate that the Republicans have" and complimented his "charm".
On February 16, 2010, while vacationing in London with his wife, Byrne was punched in the face by a mentally ill man near Waterloo tube station. The attacker was subsequently restrained by a London Underground station supervisor who came to Byrne's aid until the police arrived. Byrne, who had taken part in a "staged charity boxing match with Muhammad Ali in 1979", joked: "At least I didn't fall down at Waterloo, as when I fought Ali."
On June 27, 1953, he married Jean Featherly, with whom he had seven children. Jean and Brendan Byrne divorced amicably in 1993, and both Byrne and his wife stated that they had "grown apart". Byrne married his second wife, Ruth Zinn, who was also divorced, in 1994. Jean Byrne died in 2015 of babesiosis, aged 88.
His funeral was held on January 8 at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey. Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, then-Governor Chris Christie and Governor-elect Phil Murphy, former Governors Thomas Kean, Donald DiFrancesco, Jim McGreevey, Richard Codey and Jon Corzine and U. S. Representative Bill Pascrell were in attendance. Byrne's remains were cremated and his ashes were spread in Hudson County and in the Pine Barrens.
In 2006, Rutgers University's Center on the American Governor of the Eagleton Institute of Politics established the Brendan T. Byrne Archive, an online database containing various resources from the Byrne administration, including original documents and video interviews with Brendan Byrne and members of his administration.
The Brendan T. Byrne State Forest (formerly Lebanon State Forest) is named for him. The Brendan Byrne Arena in the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford was also named for him, although it was renamed the Continental Airlines Arena in 1996.
Byrne's son, Tom Byrne, was the New Jersey Democratic State Committee chair in the 1990s and was a prospective candidate for the U.S. Senate race in 2000, before withdrawing in favor of eventual winner Jon Corzine, who later became governor. Brendan's oldest granddaughter, Meaghan, works as a staffer in Congress.
The Man Who Couldn't Be Bought is a biography of Byrne published in 2015.
- "Brendan Byrne, Governor Who Gave New Jersey Casinos, Dies at 93". Bloomberg. January 4, 2018. Retrieved January 4, 2018.
- "Son: Former New Jersey Gov. Brendan Byrne, Democrat who mobsters said was too ethical to be bribed, dies at age 93". The Washington Post. January 4, 2018. Archived from the original on January 5, 2018. Retrieved January 4, 2018.
- "Ex-New Jersey Gov. Brendan Byrne, too ethical for mobsters, dies at 93". Chicago Tribune. January 4, 2018. Retrieved January 4, 2018.
- "Governor Brendan T. Byrne Timeline". Rutgers University Center on the American Governor. Rutgers University. Retrieved February 3, 2018.
- DeMarco, Megan (January 21, 2011). "Queen Latifah, Gov. Brendan Byrne announced as New Jersey Hall of Fame class of 2011 inductees". The Star-Ledger.
- Golway, Terry (October 31, 2004). "When Codey Talks, He Talks to Them". The New York Times.
- Portnoy, Jenna (January 4, 2018). "Brendan Byrne, two-term New Jersey governor in 1970s, dies at 93". The Washington Post.
- "Brendan Byrne, Former New Jersey Governor, Dies at 93". The Star-Ledger. January 8, 2018. Retrieved January 4, 2018.
- "Governor Brendan T. Byrne Biography". Center on the American Governor. Rutgers University. Retrieved December 21, 2014.
- Byrne, Brendan Thomas (1949). "Proportional Representation in Municipal Government". Cite journal requires
- Edward J. Mullin, Fitzgerald's New Jersey Legislative Manual, 1980, "Governor's Biography, p. 413-414"
- Furgerson, Laura Kidd (January 4, 2018). "Former New Jersey Gov. Brendan Byrne Dies At 93". Hackensack Daily Voice. Retrieved January 4, 2018.
- Christie, Chris (January 4, 2018). "Governor Chris Christie On The Passing Of Governor Brendan T. Byrne". Office of the Governor. Archived from the original on January 5, 2018. Retrieved January 4, 2018.
- Sullivan, Ronald (November 7, 1973). "Sandman Routed — GOP Loses Control of State Legislature 3rd Time in Century". The New York Times. Retrieved April 30, 2014.
- "Election Decimates the G.O.P.'s Ranks in Trenton". The New York Times. November 8, 1973. Retrieved January 16, 2018.
- Sullivan, Ronald (November 9, 1973). "Jersey Republicans Urge Party Purge". The New York Times. Retrieved January 16, 2018.
- Edward J. Mullin, Fitzgerald's New Jersey Legislative Manual, 1980, "Governor's Biography, p.413"
- Haddon, Heather (December 19, 2014). "Brendan Byrne, 90 Years Old and Still in the Mix". The Wall Street Journal.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on May 26, 2014. Retrieved May 26, 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on May 26, 2014. Retrieved May 26, 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Son: Former New Jersey Gov. Brendan Byrne, Democrat who mobsters said was too ethical to be bribed, dies at age 93". ABC News. January 4, 2018. Retrieved January 4, 2018.
- Sherman, Ted (February 16, 2010). "Former N.J. Gov. Brendan Byrne is mugged, punched in face while in London". The Star-Ledger.
- Kirby, Terry (February 19, 2010). "Jack Sparrow impersonator saves visitor from meeting his Waterloo". London Evening Standard.
- "Former N.J. First Lady Jean Byrne dies at 88". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved October 16, 2017.
- Linky, Donald (October 13, 2014). New Jersey Governor Brendan Byrne: The Man Who Couldn't Be Bought. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9781611477436.
- "Hundreds gather to remember former N.J. Gov. Byrne". New Jersey.com. January 8, 2018. Retrieved February 2, 2018.
- "What they said about Brendan Byrne: Former governors salute their colleague". Daily Record. January 8, 2018. Retrieved February 2, 2018.
- "Brendan T. Byrne Archive". Center on the American Governor. Rutgers University. Retrieved December 21, 2014.
- Sandomir, Richard (January 5, 1996). "Brendan Byrne Arena Goes Continental". The New York Times.
- "meaghan byrne - LegiStorm Search Results". www.legistorm.com. Retrieved August 12, 2021.
- "Summer Reading 2015: Biography Takes Admiring Look at Popular Governor - NJ Spotlight". NJSpotlight.com. August 18, 2015. Retrieved October 16, 2017.