NJ Chamber Remembers the Former Governor
With the loss of former Gov. Brendan Byrne, New Jersey and the business community lose a sage, a staunch advocate and a mainstay in New Jersey’s political landscape for seven decades.
“He was an exemplary public servant who put the welfare of New Jersey ahead of partisan politics,” said Tom Bracken, president and CEO of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce. “It was his character and integrity that made him so many friends on both sides of the political aisle.”
Byrne served as the 47th governor of New Jersey from 1974 to 1982, the highlight of a political career that dated back to the mid-1950s when he served as an aide to Gov. Robert Meyner, and was later appointed to serve as Essex County prosecutor and then as a Superior Court judge.
Byrne was a strong supporter of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce. He attended 51 of the 80 Walks to Washington, the state Chamber's annual train trip that takes hundreds of business leaders to the nation's capital for dinner with the sitting governor and the Congressional Delegation.
Byrne said his fondest memory at the Walk came not while he was at the podium as governor, but when he was a self-described "nobody" and seated next to U.S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan Jr. "That was a great privilege,” Byrne said.
Byrne once told the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce that, “It was during the train trip of 1959 when "Gov. Meyner told me he was going to make me the prosecutor of Essex County.”
During World War II, Byrne served in the U.S. Army Air Corps, receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross and four Air Medals. Following the War, Byrne graduated Princeton University and Harvard Law School on the way to work as a lawyer and government service.
After leaving the governor’s office, Byrne resumed work in law, and, until recently, co-wrote a weekly column in The Star-Ledger on public affairs and politics with former Gov. Tom Kean. He also taught classes at Princeton University and Rutgers University, and was highly sought after for speaking engagements, having earned a reputation for bringing both a worldly perspective and a deft wit.
“The passing of Gov. Byrne is a great loss for New Jersey and for me personally,” Bracken said. “But we are all much richer for having known him.”