WEST ORANGE, NJ - On Thursday, Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. dedicated a bronze statue to former Governor Brendan Byrne in the Governor Brendan T. Byrne Plaza. Governor Chris Christie, and former Governors Thomas Kean, James Florio and James McGreevey were also on hand for the dedication.
“Few people have the privilege to respond to the dedication of a statue created in their honor. I thank Joe DiVincenzo and appreciate this honor greatly,” Byrne said. “I am honored at having a chance to serve New Jersey and am humbled by this new immortality,” he added.
“Governor Byrne dedicated himself to serving the public as our Governor, Prosecutor and Superior Court Judge. His name is synonymous with public service and his policy decisions have shaped and influenced New Jersey for generations. He is a role model for elected officials and a champion for our county and state,” DiVincenzo said. “Five years ago, we dedicated this plaza in honor of Governor Byrne. However, we wanted to make sure future generations knew about his accomplishments, sacrifices and the genuine care and concern he had for the public. Placing a statue here is well-deserved recognition for one of Essex County’s most revered residents.”
“Even though we come from different political parties, I have always had a tremendous amount of respect for Governor Byrne for fighting for New Jersey throughout the years,” said Christie. “From protecting the New Jersey Pinelands to establishing the first statewide public transportation agency in America to creating the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, Governor Byrne always did what he thought was best for the long-term future of our state and is the true epitome of public service. I’m glad to be here today in Newark with Governor Byrne and Ruthie to honor his legacy.”
“It is right that we honor Brendan. The policies we followed when I was in the Statehouse were bipartisan because of the example he set. He brought everyone together, across the political aisles, to get good things done for New Jersey,” Governor Thomas Kean said. “I came here today to pound on his heart with love. You and New Jersey will always be perfect together,” Kean concluded good naturedly.
Younger people know Governor Byrne as collegial and having a sense of humor. But as Governor, he was a hard-driving policy-driven person who thought of the long-term ramifications,” Governor James Florio said, referring to the preservation of the Pinelands.
“Governor Byrne was challenged, maligned and misunderstood, but the magnificence of New Jersey that we enjoy today was built on his foundation. He always remained loyal, held onto his principles and never was afraid of any challenges,” Governor James McGreevey said.
According to the specs provided by the Essex County Executive's office:
"The bronze statue weighs about 700 pounds, is seven feet tall and is situated on a two-foot tall granite pedestal. The statue was created by artist Jay Warren from Oregon, who also created bronze statues of Congressman Donald Payne, Sr. in front of the Essex County LeRoy F. Smith, Jr. Public Safety Building, Althea Gibson in Essex County Branch Brook Park and Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. in front of the Historic Essex County Courthouse."
Governor Byrne's notable efforts during his tenure from 1974 to 1982 included several quality of life policy initiatives. He instituted "fiscal reform in the financing and oversight of public education; fought to protect the resources of the New Jersey Pinelands; restored the waterfront and enacted a national model for environmental cleanup; assisted in the redevelopment of Atlantic City by approving casino gambling; upheld the public interest in consumer issues, housing and access to public resources by creating the Department of the Public Advocate; and established New Jersey Transit, the first statewide public transportation agency in America. He also developed the financing program for the initial construction of Giants Stadium and the Meadowlands, updated New Jersey’s criminal code and sentencing guidelines, formulated the State’s first water supply plan, championed the Sunshine Law for open public records and created the Economic Development Authority to attract businesses and jobs to New Jersey" according to further information provided by the County Executive's office.
Prior to his governorship, Byrne was appointed as Essex County Prosecutor in 1959 by Governor Richard J. Hughes and was reappointed in 1964. Byrne developed his reputation relentless crime fighter and started a video program to film drunk drivers for criminal prosecutions. He was also a New Jersey Superior Court Judge.
Byrne was born and raised in West Orange. He fought during WWII as the youngest squadron navigator in his bomb group when he enlisted in the Army Air Corps, where he rose to the rank of Lieutenant with the 414th Bomb Squadron of the 15th Air Force and received the Distinguished Flying Medal and four Air Medals.