|This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (August 2015)|
|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
|Preceded by||Charles Webb|
|Succeeded by||Joseph P. Lordi|
April 1, 1924 |
West Orange, New Jersey, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Jean Featherly (1953–1993)
Ruthi Zinn (1994–present)
|Education||Seton Hall University
Princeton University (BA)
Harvard University (LLB)
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1943–1945|
|Unit||U.S. Army Air Forces|
Brendan Thomas Byrne (born April 1, 1924) is an American Democratic Party politician who served for two terms as the 47th Governor of New Jersey from 1974 to 1982. Elected in the wave of anti-Republican backlash arising from the Watergate scandal, he ushered in a period of reform of the state government and tax structure.
- 1 Early life and education
- 2 New Jersey political career
- 3 Life after governorship
- 4 Positions held, past and present
- 5 Legacy
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Early life and education
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, and thanks to the G.I. Bill, Byrne attended Princeton University for two years, where he majored in 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, and went on to obtain his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1951.
On June 27, 1953, he married Jean Featherly, with whom he had seven children. Jean and Brendan Byrne divorced in 1993. Byrne married his second wife, Ruth Zinn, in 1994. Former First Lady of New Jersey Jean Byrne died in 2015.
New Jersey political career
In October 1955, Byrne was appointed an assistant counsel to Governor Robert B. Meyner, and 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 margin was so vast that it allowed Democrats to capture control of both chambers of the state legislature.
First term as governor of New Jersey
On January 15, 1974, Brendan 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. Property taxes went down because of it, people got rebates and Bateman's plan—replacing it with an increased sales tax—was widely criticised.
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.
Life after governorship
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-write 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.
In 1993, Byrne and his wife Jean Featherly divorced.
On February 16, 2010, while vacationing in London with his wife, Byrne was punched in the face by a mentally ill man. The attack took place outside the 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."
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".
Positions held, past and present
Byrne is a member of the Essex County and New Jersey State Bar Associations.
He also served as:
- Editor of the Irish Law Reports
- Essex County Prosecutor, 1959–1968
- Vice President of the National District Attorneys Association, 1968
- President of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, 1968–1970
- New Jersey Superior Court Judge, 1970–1973
- Court Assignment Judge, 1973
- Governor of the State of New Jersey, 1974–1982
- Trustee of Princeton University, 1974–1982
- Chairman of the Princeton University Council on New Jersey Affairs, 1985–1989
- First Chair of the U.S. Marshalls Foundation
- Member of the Advisory Board, National Judicial College
- And as a member of the Board of Directors of the
- Chelsea GA Carvel Foundation
- Elizabethtown Water Company
- Prudential Insurance Company
- Cali Realty Company
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 T. 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, and then the Izod Center in 2007.
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.
"The Man Who Couldn’t Be Bought" is a biography of Byrne published in 2015.
- Golway, Terry (31 October 2004). "When Codey Talks, He Talks to Them". New York Times.
- "Governor Brendan T. Byrne Biography". Center on the American Governor. Rutgers University. Retrieved 21 December 2014.
- Edward J. Mullin, Fitzgerald's New Jersey Legislative Manual, 1980, "Governor's Biography, p.413-414"
- Ronald Sullivan (November 7, 1973). "Sandman Routed — GOP Loses Control of State Legislature 3rd Time in Century". New York Times. Retrieved April 30, 2014.
- 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". Wall Street Journal.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on May 26, 2014. Retrieved 2014-05-26.
- Kirby, Terry (19 February 2010). "Jack Sparrow impersonator saves visitor from meeting his Waterloo". London Evening Standard.
- Ted Sherman (February 16, 2010). "Former N.J. Gov. Brendan Byrne is mugged, punched in face while in London". The Star-Ledger.
- "Brendan T. Byrne Archive". Center on the American Governor. Rutgers University. Retrieved 21 December 2014.
- Sandomir, Richard (January 5, 1996). "Brendan Byrne Arena Goes Continental". New York Times.
- Megan DeMarco (January 21, 2011). "Queen Latifah, Gov. Brendan Byrne announced as New Jersey Hall of Fame class of 2011 inductees". The Star-Ledger.
- New Jersey Governor Brendan Thomas Byrne, National Governors Association
- Rutgers Program on the Governor, the Brendan Byrne Archive
|Party political offices|
|Democratic nominee for Governor of New Jersey
Ella T. Grasso
|Chair of the Democratic Governors Association
|Governor of New Jersey