Government

Brendan Byrne's career forged in Newark before becoming N.J. governor

568200ea93b75a98a063_BrendanByrne3.jpg
Gov. Brendan Byrne
8377b6cc5efa0a7a57d1_BrendanByrne1.jpg
Gov. Brendan Byrne at a victory celebration.
4f35082d357447cc9199_BrendanByrne2.jpg
Brendan Byrne (right) and son, Tom Byrne.
568200ea93b75a98a063_BrendanByrne3.jpg

Before he became New Jersey's governor, Brendan Byrne carved his career path in his native Essex County, as county prosecutor during a tumultuous era in Newark's history. 

Tested and tempered, he was ready for his time in Trenton. 

Byrne, who died Thursday, is fondly remembered by those who watched his life, and his legacy, spring to life as a young lawman who was once described on a wiretap as a "man who could not be bought."

Sign Up for E-News

Several prominent political and non-profit leaders told TAPinto Newark their stories about Byrne, governor from 1974 to 1982. Their tales were told from the perspective of power and public service, tinged with humor, their laughter in the face of sadness fueled by fond memories of Byrne. 

Byrne was Essex County Prosecutor and Richard Hughes was governor during the 1967 Newark riot which left 26 people dead, resulted in millions of dollars in property damage and ripped apart the city's soul. 

Michael Murphy — one of the sons of the late Hughes, who served from 1962 to 1970 — remembered the connection Byrne and Hughes built during Newark’s darkest hour.

“They were either together or were on the phone constantly when the riot was at its peak,” Murphy, whose father reappointed Byrne in 1964 to his second term as county prosecutor, said. 

“They set up special prosecution teams to bring people in who were rioting, shooting, or otherwise misbehaving. And they kept the courthouse open 24/7 to arraign who they brought in," Murphy said. "The bonding that takes place in a crisis like that lasts a lifetime.”

For a young Tom Kean, who was elected to the state Assembly in 1967, the first two years were in many ways all about the riot – what had happened, what should be done for the city of Newark, including passage of an urban aid bill and other programs designed to salve wounds and send New Jersey's largest city down a better road. 

“I think that was a period of testing. If you went through that period and came out on the other side, you’d learned something. You’d been tempered a bit, like steel," said Kean, whose district contained a sliver of Newark. "You understood what some of the real problems and dangers were, and you learned how to deal with them." 

After Byrne was elected governor in 1973, he dealt with New Jersey's problems in several dramatic and unprecedented ways. He was the force behind the passage of the state's first income tax to fund public schools as well as property tax relief, the preservation of the one-million acre South Jersey forest known as the Pinelands, and the legalization of casino gambling in Atlantic City, which financed institutional care for the elderly and disabled. 

“Brendan did things nobody else would have done, and the state is a very different place because of that," said Kean, who followed Byrne as New Jersey's governor from 1982 to 1990. 

"If you look at the governors before and after him, none of us favored casino gambling," Kean said. "He was the only one who would’ve signed that bill. Based on his reading a book about the importance of the Pinelands region – The Pine Barrens, by John McPhee – he went on a crusade to save the Pinelands. And he did it.  

"I think we would have had a state income tax anyway because we couldn't fund education any other way," Kean continued. "But what took place with casinos and the Pinelands would not have happened without the unique legislation and legacy of Brendan Byrne." 

Former governor and current State Sen. Richard Codey was first elected to the Assembly in 1973, the same year that Byrne won his first term in Trenton. Codey knew Byrne's name before he shared a ballot with him - his father played tennis with Byrne when he was prosecutor and a judge. 

Newark might have burned in 1967, but Codey noted how Byrne stayed cool under fire. 

"As the county prosecutor, he had to work with, and under, the state and the feds at the time of the riot, as well as with the Newark police, which was no easy task. But he got pretty high marks for working with all of the communities in the city of Newark, including in the aftermath of the riot," Codey said. "He maintained his relationships. He stayed steady. He was a gentleman that you could respect.

"Governor Byrne's creed was this: I did what was right. I stand by it. Let my fate be determined by the voters," Codey noted, pointing to his spurning the 'one-term Byrne' slogan when he convincingly won reelection in 1977. "And what did they say? We want you back." 

After the voters said they wanted Kean for governor, the Livingston native looked around to help get a grip on the great power afforded New Jersey's governor. The 1947 state constitution makes the person who heads the Garden State arguably the most powerful governor in America. 

Kean, who led the Republican opposition while Byrne, a Democrat, was governor, forged a bipartisan bond at a place where Byrne was often found - the tennis court. 

"When I became governor, I had a Democratic legislature in both houses that didn’t really want to work with a new Republican governor. But very quietly, Brendan and I used to play tennis once a week or so in the afternoons, then we’d sit and talk. He would give me hints on how to deal with people," Kean said. "I treasured those talks. He helped me be a much better governor.

"We disagreed on a number of things, but in the process of disagreeing we got to like each other and developed a lifelong friendship. That’s the way politics should be," Kean said. "I hope that Governor Phil Murphy and future governors will look at Brendan Byrne as an example to follow.” 

Later in life, Byrne set an example to a new generation of people hoping to give back. 

"When I was in college, Governor Byrne and I would go for lunches at Pal's Cabin in West Orange and talk about public service," said Montclair native Carlos Lejnieks, president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Essex, Hudson & Union Counties, which is based in Newark. 

"We asked Governor Byrne and Governor Kean to help co-chair and launch our advisory board, knowing that their names would give it weight and credibility. They didn't hesitate. Governor Byrne became a donor, a supporter, and an amplifier of our mission to mentor kids in Newark when very few people were on board." 

Michael Murphy served as Morris County Prosecutor before his Democratic gubernatorial primary run in 1997. One day on the campaign trial, Byrne's mind went back to his home county when he gave Murphy some unofficial job advice. 

“Governor Byrne took me aside once and said ‘Mike, I’ve had a great career, but the best job that I ever had was being the Essex County Prosecutor," Murphy remembered. "You wake up every day and you know that you’re going to be able to do justice and help your community." 

Life springs from death. For Murphy, and for many others, Byrne left an impression that goes far beyond the grave.  

"I loved him dearly. He combined wit, wisdom, integrity, and character so seamlessly. Personally as an Irish Catholic Democrat, having been raised by an Irish Catholic Democrat, he was the guy who most reminded me of my late father," Murphy said. 

"Governor Byrne always told me this: 'We Irish Catholics have a great, self-effacing sense of humor. You know why that is? We just have good material.'" 

A tribute service to Gov. Byrne is scheduled for 11 a.m. today at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Milburn. It is open to the public.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Bloomfield

Bloomfield's Francesco Paladino hosts Live Stand Up Comedy Thursday at the Old Canal Inn

July 22, 2018

NUTLEY, NJ - The laughs start at 7:30 p.m. this Thursday as the Old Canal Inn hosts 'Canal Comedy Night LIVE!'

Bloomfield's Francesco Paladino will host the two hour comedy event featuring some of the best known and up and coming comedy talent from the area. 

Headliner Tom Paciaffi will be joined by Doug Max, EC Winkler, Tom ...

Here Comes the Rain Again, Starting Saturday July 21 and Continuing On and Off All Week

NEW YORK, NY - The National Weather Service is predicting a mostly wet week for Northern New Jersey with showers starting Saturday night and continuing on and off all week.

Today (Friday July 20) and Saturday until around 4 p.m. are expected to be sunny and partly sunny days. For Saturday there is a 30% chance of showers after 4 p.m. On Saturday night, expect showers and possible thunderstorms ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_e8caf8f288f950009ca3_library_montclair_ants_in_pants

Mon, July 23, 4:00 PM

Bellevue Avenue Branch, Upper Montclair

Ants in the Pants: Children’s Author Jolie Della ...

Education

Carousel_image_b3cfb9d1c9647a4f98fa_mountainside_logo_meridian

Mon, July 23, 7:00 PM

Hospital Auditorium, Glen Ridge

Tour of the Birthing Center

Health & Wellness

Carousel_image_894baa8375cb9dd2f0cb_mini_magick20180718-26014-1b0psr8

Tue, July 24, 2:00 PM

Montclair Public Library, Auditorium, Montclair

What’s All That Jazz About? with Shenole Latimer

Arts & Entertainment Education

Carousel_image_71f510c1d4958086ac22_z_verona_summer_concerts_2018

Wed, July 25, 7:00 PM

Verona Civic Center Square, Verona

Verona Summer Concert Series!

Arts & Entertainment Business & Finance Food & Drink Government

Carousel_image_839567c057b5b1db93e9_bill-boat_504x353_web

Thu, July 26, 6:00 PM

River Barge Park & Marina, Carlstadt

Meadowlands Discovery Sunset Eco-Cruise

Education Green Travel

Carousel_image_f81613780d82fe7007d7_movie_coco

Fri, July 27, 3:00 PM

Montclair Public Library, Montclair

Sugar-Skull Craft with Maria Nichim Luna

Education

The New Pioneer Spirit in Bloomfield

The initial patent for the land that would become Bloomfield Township was granted to the English Puritan colonists of Newark, and the area assigned to Essex County in 1675, and Newark Township in 1693. From the 1690's to about the 1720's, much of the northern and eastern land was sold to descendants of New Netherland colonists who had settled Acquackanonk, and the remainder mostly to ...

Bloomfield Police Department Blotter June 25 to July 1, 2018

July 6, 2018

BLOOMFIELD, NJ - The following police blotter has been issued by Lt. Anthony Sisco of the Bloomfield Police Department.

Shoplifting:

6/26/18- Robert Jimenez Age 37 of Paulsboro, NJ-Officers were dispatched to 60 Orange Street (Home Depot) on report of a shoplifter in custody. Mr. Jiminez was observed attempting to leave the store with unpaid merchandise valued at $417.00. He was ...

Noodlefan and K Kakes Cakery in South Orange Currently Closed

July 22, 2018

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - Two eateries in South Orange, Noodlefan and K Kakes Cakery, have been closed recently, and there is not much information about when, or if, they will re-open.

Noodlefan, located at 14 Academy St., has been closed for about a month, with a sign on the door indicating they plan to re-open. The sign reads "to our valued customers temporarily closed for staffs ...

Those Boarded-Up Homes in the West Ward? Newark Has a Plan for Them.

Newark, NJ - The city is using the power of eminent domain to reduce the number of condemned homes and vacant lots scattered throughout the West Ward.

The redevelopment plan for the West Ward was introduced in 2016 and encompasses properties from the border of Irvington to South 13th Street between South Orange Avenue and 16th Avenue. One of the main goals of the plan is to support new ...

An Evening with Dianne Grossman, Mallory's Mom & Founder of Mallory's Army

July 20, 2018

SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ -- Mallory Rose Grossman, a 12-year-old girl from Rockaway, NJ, took her own life on June 14, 2017, after enduring horrific bullying. Following the pain of this senseless tragedy, her parents, Dianne and Seth Grossman, started a charitable foundation called Mallory’s Army™. Its mission is to change behavior, provide education to parents, and create enrichment ...

CAIR-NJ Condemns Fliers Posted in Bridgewater, Surrounding Area by White Supremacist Group Identity Evropa

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - The New Jersey Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ) has condemned the distribution of fliers promoting Identity Evropa, a white supremacist group, in Bridgewater, Somerville, Morristown and other areas, according to a release Wednesday.

"The promotion of a racist and white supremacist group should not be tolerated in our ...

Indie Street Film Festival in Red Bank Starts Wednesday, July 25th

July 21, 2018

RED BANK, NJ - The third annual INDIE STREET FILM FESTIVAL, taking place throughout Red Bank July 25-29, will include screenings of more than 70 different independent feature and short films from around the world.

Open up your mind full of mush for five days of art, discussion and inspiration! 

Explore and discover cutting edge films and filmmakers who prove that the story is ...

Shore Report: End of an Era for Landmark Schneider’s Restaurant in Avon-by-the-Sea

AVON-BY-THE-SEA, NJ — Nearly 10 months after it was ravaged by fire, Schneider’s restaurant in Avon-by-the-Sea was demolished this week — piece by nostalgic piece.

The demolition, which began on July 16 and took three days to complete, attracted dozens of onlookers who shared stories about the iconic German restaurant at 801 Main Street. For nearly five decades, ...

To Our Current and Future Representatives

July 18, 2018

To Our Current and Future Representatives - Wherever They May Be:

We can never forget we are a nation of immigrants. 

We cannot fall prey to fear, ignorance and anger when we  have been historically driven by freedom and justice. 

We must have the courage and will to fight hate, bigotry and prejudice. 

We must not wake up to what we hoped was a bad dream and ...

Entrepreneurs Continue Bloomfield's Centuries' Old Pioneering Tradition

To the Editor:

The initial patent for the land that would become Bloomfield Township was granted to the English Puritan colonists of Newark, and the area assigned to Essex County in 1675, and Newark Township in 1693. From the 1690s to about the 1720s, much of the northern and eastern land was sold to descendants of New Netherland colonists who had settled Acquackanonk, and the remainder mostly ...

Thursday Movies Continue to the end of July at the Bloomfield Public Library

July 19, 2018 - BLACK PANTHER This American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name is a financial and critical blockbuster! After the death of his father, T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns home to the African nation of Wakanda to take his rightful place as king. When a powerful enemy suddenly reappears, T'Challa's resilience as king - and as ...

Monday Movies Continue Through The End of July

July 16, 2018 - SAME KIND OF DIFFERENT AS ME

Successful businessman Ron Hall (Greg Kinnear) and his wife, Deborah (Renee Zellweger), discover a renewed sense of purpose when they begin to volunteer at a local mission in Fort Worth, Texas. Their lives change forever when they develop an unlikely friendship with Denver Moore (Djimon Hounson), a homeless man who inspires them to save their ...

The Jaffe Briefing - July 19, 2018

TRENTON - Once the state budget is adopted June 30, you'd think the governor gets a break from scrutiny. Unless you are former Gov. Chris Christie, sitting in that beach chair. Or, now, Gov. Phil Murphy, getting wacked for having the players on his Sky Blue FC pro women's soccer team living in alleged squalor. Living in houses with plastic bags for windows, sleeping in bunk ...

5 Simple Ways to Save Water this Summer

July 16, 2018

According to the L.A. Times, the average American uses an estimated 98 gallons of water EACH day.  

Here are five simple ways you can save water, to help you conserve water this summer and take some pressure off of your drains.

1. Unless you are using it, turn the faucet off. How many of us still leave the water running while we shave or brush our teeth?According to ...

People I've Known and Been: Little by Little by Rich Little

People I've Known and Been: Little by Little by Rich Little (Dog Ear Publishing, 2015)

 

Rich Little is a national treasure; a living encyclopedia of movie stars, comedians, and former presidents all wrapped into one dynamic package. Recently, my husband and I had the good fortune to see Little perform at the Tropicana in Las Vegas, where he has been doing his uncanny ...

Lucia, Lucia by Adriani Trigiani

Lucia, Lucia by Adriana Trigiani (Ballentine Books, 2003)

 

If a summer romance novel is what you are craving to read as you sit by the pool or beach, Adriana Trigiani's Lucia, Lucia is a perfect choice. Set in 1950 New York City, the novel is about a young woman, Lucia Sartori, who is determined to have a career and be able to support herself, an unusual choice for a girl who was ...

The Anatomy of Escape by Mike Blue

The Anatomy of Escape: An Unconventional Adventure by Mike Blue (Available on Amazon)

 

Imagine that you could just say, “Chuck it,” and walk away from the bonds that keep you tied to what Mike Blue, author of The Anatomy of Escape: An Unconventional Adventure, defines as the restrictive Work-Consume-Die cycle. To most of us, becoming what Blue terms “a ...

The Death of Koko the Gorilla

Koko's Kitten, Koko's Story, The Eduction of Koko all by Dr. Francine Patterson

 

Last night when I heard about the death of Koko, the lowland gorilla who was educated to communicate through American Sign Language by Dr. Francine Patterson, I went numb with grief. I have followed the life of Koko, her two gorilla companions, Michael and Ndume, as well as Dr. Patterson for forty ...

HMH Mountainside Medical Center to Host Free Film Screening, Aug. 29

July 21, 2018

MONTCLAIR, NJ - Montclair Film today announced a partnership with Hackensack Meridian Health Mountainside Medical Center for a free screening of MILK (2015) on Wednesday, August 29th at 10:30 am at Montclair Film’s Cinema505.

The screening, presented in celebration of World Breastfeeding Month, seeks to educate and promote breastfeeding among nursing and expecting mothers. Parents and ...

Matarazzo Farms Farmers Market Every Tuesday in Cedar Grove

CEDAR GROVE, NJ - Join Matarazzo Farms for its Farmer's Market every Tuesday through the fall at the new Cedar Grove Park on Fairview Avenue from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. directly in front of the Robert J. O'Toole Community center in Cedar Grove.

Matarazzo Farms will have fresh local produce naturally grown plus some other specialties like fresh cut ...

Edison Based India Day Parade Kick's Off in Washington D.C.

In a “Kickoff Event” for the annual India Day Parade, taking place this year on August 12th in Edison, members of the Indian Business Association descended on Capitol Hill to promote national awareness of the annual celebration and highlight policy issues affecting Indian-Americans.

 

The event, held in the conference room of House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, was ...

Montclair Health Department Offers Free Cancer Clinic to Eligible Essex County Women, Sept. 27

MONTCLAIR, NJ– The Montclair Health Department is offering a Women’s Clinic/Cancer Screening event on Thursday, September 27, at the Montclair Municipal Building, 205 Claremont Avenue, third floor, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. 

The following will be offered:

Pelvic Examination and PAP Smear testing for early detection of cervical cancer (age 21 and ...

Obituaries

Mar 9, 1978 - Jul 13, 2018
Christopher J. Barra, Sr., lifelong resident of Bloomfield, passed away on July 13, 2018 at the age ...
Read more
Jun 10, 1983 - Jun 17, 2018
Ryan M. Lucas, 35 Proud Marine Veteran and Nutley Firefighter Ryan M. Lucas, a lifelong ...
Read more