Home / U.S. / Former Governor Brendan T. Byrne dead at 93

Former Governor Brendan T. Byrne dead at 93

  A portrait of Brendan Byrne is depicted. | AP Photo "title =" A portrait of Brendan Byrne is depicted. | AP Photo "/> </source></source></source></source></picture></div><figcaption><p> Politicians across the state, on both sides of the political aisle, expressed their sadness on Thursday at the news of Byrne's death. | AP Photo</p></figcaption></figure></p><script async src=

Former Governor Brendan T. Byrne, who presided over the legalization of the casino game and the construction of the Meadowlands Sports Complex and whose decision to establish the state's first income tax placed his approval rating but not his reputation, passed away on Thursday.

He had 93 He was the oldest living governor in the state.

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The death of Byrne, a Democrat who held the most important position in the state between 1974 and 1982, was announced Thursday night by Governor Chris Christie, a Republican who for a long time said he admired the executive as someone who set an example for his own career.

"Governor Byrne had an extraordinary career in public service," he said. Christie in a statement, noting that Byrne had also been a prosecutor and judge of the High Court. "He did each of those jobs with integrity, honesty, intelligence, wit and style."

A veteran of World War II and a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, Byrne was one of the most influential governors. known in the history of the state and used its two terms to put its brand in New Jersey in fundamental and long-lasting ways.

Byrne's largest legacy item may be instituting the state's first income tax, which he enacted in July 1976 while the state struggled in the midst of widespread economic turmoil. The move contributed to a massive drop in polls, with its approval rating dropping to 17 percent in 1977, the lowest of all New Jersey governors until Christie set a new record last year.

But Byrne recovered. He prevailed in a large elementary camp that same year, winning re-election against Republican Ray Bateman and consolidating his reputation as one of the most beloved figures in the state.

"I knew I would be re-elected when people started to greet me using all five fingers," Byrne once joked.

During his time in office, Byrne created some of the institutions for which the state is best known.

Commissioned the Meadowlands Sports Complex, convincing the New York Giants to make their new home at the Garden State. When the Meadowlands Arena opened in 1981, it bore his name.

After voters approved the plans for the sports complex, Byrne enacted the legalization of the casino game in Atlantic City, ushering in a new age for the turbulent spa town and the creation of a multi-billion dollar industry that had prospered Until just a decade ago.

As Atlantic City struggled again in recent years, the casino after the casino closed as the competition spread into n In neighboring states, the former governor doubted what he had done there.

"It was my biggest mistake," Bryne told the Wall Street Journal in 2014.

Byrne, who was a prosecutor in Essex County during the Newark riots in 1967 and toured the streets with a shotgun, was made known as "the man who could not be bought".

When he signed the law that legalized casinos in 1977, he warned gangsters to keep their "dirty hands" out of town. In a famous transcript of Mafia figures talking about New Jersey politicians, his toughest words are reserved for the 47th governor of the state. They called Byrne "SOB" and "Boy Scout."

"Trying to buy it only makes things worse," said one mobster, according to a biography of the former governor of 2014.

Byrne is also credited with saving Pinelands, an extensive region of forests, small towns and farmland that It extends throughout South Jersey. As the development increased, cutting hole after hole after hole in the lush landscape, Byrne took a one-sided action, signing an executive order in 1977 that stopped development there. In three years, the Legislature had passed the Pinelands Protection Act and Byrne had signed the law.

"Gov. Byrne was a man who always, always, did the right thing in front of politics, no matter how difficult the problem is," Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto said in a statement on Thursday. "His intelligence, honor, wit and courage combined with his dedication to his country and public service made him a model for all of us in an elected office to emulate."

Politicians throughout the state, from both sides of the political aisle, He expressed his sadness on Thursday at the news of his death. He was remembered as one of the funniest politicians the state has known, with a charm he kept in public until his death.

Governor-elect Phil Murphy, who saw Byrne as a personal friend and mentor, said the former governor was one of the state's "most beloved and distinguished children".

"Governor Byrne was a man of incredible decency, inscrutable honesty, admirable humility and tremendous humor," said Murphy, who takes office this month. a declaration. "It restored New Jersey's faith that good people go into politics to do the right things for the right reasons."

Even in his 90 years, Byrne remained an active member of the state's political class, presiding as the dean of the powerful and ambitious with his wife, Ruthie, at his side. He attended numerous public events, attended calls from journalists and attended funerals of people he met on the way, without losing contact with those who mattered.

"My life is richer for having known it, I am sure it is the lives of every person who had the privilege of knowing it," said Christie.

Matt Friedman contributed to this report.

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