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Brendan Byrne papers

Identifier: Mss 0007

Scope and Contents

The Brendan Byrne papers consist primarily of materials related to Byrne's campaigns for governor of New Jersey, as well as some personal materials documenting his time as governor and his activities with the Democratic party.

A large portion of the collection relates to Brendan Byrne's campaign for governor in 1973 against Charles Sandman. These materials include position papers, information on appearances, finances, issue and research files, information on opponent Charles Sandman, and Byrne's public statements and releases.

The collection also includes materials related to Brendan Byrne's campaign for re-election as governor in 1977 against Raymond Bateman. These materials include financing, issue and research files, information on opponenet Ray Bateman, and public statements and releases.

The remainder of the collection relates to Democratic committees at the state and national level, ephemera such as awards, plaques and newsclippings, and audio-visual materials including audiotapes and photographs. Audiotapes include some recordings of speeches given by Brendan Byrne.

A portion of the collection was housed in the New Jersey State Archives until the 1980s, when it came to Seton Hall. The collection has been partially processed by both the State Archives and the Archives and Special Collections Center, and arrangement information is based on this initial processing. The official documents of Brendan Byrne's time as Governor of New Jersey are held in the State Archives in Trenton.


  • Creation: 1960-1982 (bulk 1973-1977)
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1973 - 1977

Conditions Governing Access

Photographic negatives may only be viewed with the assistance of the archivist.

This collection includes audio-visual materials. Access copies of audiotapes, audio cassette tapes, video cassette tapes, film reels, or other audio-visual materials may need to be ordered prior to on-site research. Please contact us to inquire about access to audio-visual materials. Otherwise, materials are available for research at the Msgr. William Noé Field Archives & Special Collections Center. Advance appointments are required for the use of archival materials.

Conditions Governing Use

All materials available in this collection (unless otherwise noted) are the property of the Monsignor William Noé Field Archives & Special Collections Center and Seton Hall University, which reserves the right to limit access to or reproduction of these materials. Reproduction of materials or content is subject to United States copyright restrictions and may be subject to federal or state privacy regulations. Permission to publish exact reproductions must be obtained from the Director of the Archives and Special Collections Center.

Biographical / Historical

Brendan T. Byrne was born 1 April 1924 in West Orange, NJ, the fourth child of Francis A. Byrne (1888–1973) and Genevieve (Brennan) Byrne's five children. Brendan Byrne attended Seton Hall University before leaving to enroll in the Army Air Corps in 1943 and serving in World War II. He was a navigator and received a Distinguished Flying Cross and three Air Medals. After returning from the war, he graduated from Princeton University in 1949 and received his LL.B. from Harvard University in 1951. He worked as an attorney in New Jersey and married Jean Featherly in 1953.

Brendan Byrne's public career began in 1955 when Governor Robert B. Meyner named him Assistant Council for his administration. The next year he was promoted to Executive Secretary, a position he held for three years. In 1959 he was appointed Essex County Prosecutor. While serving in this capacity, Byrne gained recognition for prosecuting dishonest contractors and powerful underworld figures. He was the prosecutor for nine years. From 1968-1970, Byrne served as president of the State Board of Public Utility Commissioners, having been appointed by Governor Richard Hughes. He left this position when he was appointed to the New Jersey State Supreme Court in 1970 by Governor Cahill. In 1971, he handed down a decision that declared the state law on capital punishment unconstitutional. He resigned from the Supreme Court in 1973 to run for governor.

Byrne’s platform in the gubernatorial election of 1973 was based on the slogan “one honest man can make a difference.” Between the years of 1970 and 1973, seventy-eight New Jersey public officials were indicted by federal grand juries, and Watergate was still in the news. Byrne ran on a platform of restoring public confidence in the government after these events. Byrne’s opponent was Republican candidate Charles Sandman, who criticized Byrne throughout the campaign for his reluctance to publicly state his position on controversial issues such as abortion and the environment. Byrne preferred to make his statements in position papers. On November 6, 1973, Brendan T. Byrne won, by over 721,000 votes, an election that Newsweek called the “biggest gubernatorial victory in the state’s history.”

In 1977 Byrne ran for re-election against Republican candidate Raymond H. Bateman. Despite being considered the underdog in the race, Byrne won again by a large majority.

Brendan Byrne’s time as governor created a legacy that includes the Meadowland Sports Complex, development of the casinos of Atlantic City, dedication to the environment exemplified in the Pinelands Preservation Act, and a commitment to improving public education.

After stepping down as governor in 1982, Byrne returned to working as an attorney, co-wrote a column in the Star-Ledger with his gubernatorial successor Thomas Kean, and has taught classes at Princeton University and Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. He lives in New Jersey with his second wife, Ruthi Zinn.


55 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



This collection is organized into five series with several corresponding subseries:

  1. Series I. Election of 1973
  2. Series II. Election of 1977
  3. Series III. Democratic Committees, 1970-1980
  4. Series IV. Ephemera, 1960-1980
  5. Series V. Audio and Photographs, 1970s

The bulk of this collection pertains to materials collected during the administration of Brendan Byrne as Governor of New Jersey between 1974 and 1982. The collection was originally received as a gift in several parts from the State Archives of New Jersey in 1983 and 1986. The majority of materials included were processed prior to their arrival, though some preliminary reprocessing was performed throughout the 1980s and 1990s before being reprocessed and rehoused in 2022. The collection has been organized into five series with several corresponding subseries.

The first series included, Election of 1973, contains five subseries of materials relating to the 1973 campaign for Governor of New Jersey when Byrne's Republican opponent was Charles W. Sandman Jr., a former United States Senator who represented New Jersey's 2nd district in the House of Representative from 1967-1975. The five subseries included in the first series are as follows: Inviations, Financial Records, Research Files, Public Statements, and Press Clippings.

The second series, Election of 1977, contains five subseries of materials relating to the 1977 campaign for Governor of New Jersey when Byrne's Republican opponent was Raymond H. Bateman, a former New Jersey Senator who represented the 8th district from 1968-1974 and the 16th district from 1974-1978. The five subseries included in the second series are as follows: Invitations, Fincancial Records, Research Files, Public Statements, and Press Clippings.

The third series, Democratic Committees, 1970-1980, contains two subseries of materials relating to Byrne's involvement in both state organized democratic committees throughout New Jersey in addition to his activities surrounding the Democratical National Committee. The two subseries included in the third series are as follows: State Committees and National Committees.

The fourth series, Ephemera, 1960-1982, contains two subseries of materials that include various objects, books, and plaques that primarily pertain to Byrne's tenure as Governor of New Jersey. The two subseries included in the fourth series are as follows: Objects and Plaques.

The fifth and final series, Audio and Photographs, 1970s, contains a multitude of audio-visual materials primarily pertaining to Byrne's tenure as Governor of New Jersey from 1974-1982, including audio-cassettes, tapes, and miscellaneous photographic materials and negatives.

Preservica Internal URL

Preservica Public URL

Brendan Byrne papers, 1960-1982 (bulk 1973-1977)
Sean Cureton * Collection was reprocessed in 2022 and the original order from that processing was maintained. *
November 2022
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.
  • TypeCollection

Repository Details

Part of the The Monsignor Field Archives & Special Collection Center Repository

Archives, Walsh Library
400 South Orange Ave
South Orange NJ 07079 US