Robert Baumle Meyner at age 19

Robert Baumle Meyner - Biographical Sketch

Robert Baumle Meyner (1908-1990), was born on July 3, 1908, in Easton, Pennsylvania, to Sophia Mary Baumle (1881-1968), born near Basel, Switzerland, and Gustave Herman Meyner (1878-1950), a loomfixer in the silk industry, born in Manchester, New Hampshire. Robert Meyner had a younger sister Olive Meyner Wagner and an older brother Gustave. During his early childhood, Robert Meyner's family moved to Pennsylvania, and then to Phillipsburg and Paterson, New Jersey, and finally settled back in Phillipsburg in 1922, where the family lived in the house on Lincoln Avenue built by Robert Meyner's grandfather.

Robert Meyner was graduated from Phillipsburg High School in 1926. He received his A.B. degree from Lafayette College in 1930 with a major in Government and Law. While at Lafayette, Meyner was a member of the Alpha Chi Rho social fraternity, the Knights of the Round Table honor society, debating team, and the student council. He was a member of R.O.T.C from 1926-1928 and organized an Alfred E. Smith for President Club in 1928. In his senior year, Meyner was the editor-in-chief of the college newspaper, The Lafayette. As a youth Meyner helped defray family expenses by delivering newspapers and working as a coremaker apprentice for the Warren Foundry and Pipe Corporation and the Ingersoll Rand Company. While in college Meyner also worked as a weaver for the Gunning Silk Company. Meyner received his L.L.B. from Columbia Law School in 1933, and was admitted to the New Jersey Bar in 1934. He practiced as an associate with J. Emil Walscheid and Milton Rosenkranz from February 1933 to April 1936 in Union City and Jersey City. In 1936, Meyner moved back to Phillipsburg to practice general law; he also served as counsel to Warren County and Pohatcong Township, New Jersey, and taught Business Law at Lafayette College.

Meyner began his career in politics when he ran unsuccessfully for state senator from Warren County in 1941. His plans for political office were interrupted when he entered the U.S. Naval Reserve as a lieutenant in 1942. He was promoted to lieutenant commander in 1943 and went on active duty until 1945. He was promoted to commander in 1957 and continued to serve in the Reserves until 1966. During World War II Meyner commanded gun crews in the American and European theaters and represented enlisted men as defense counsel in court martial cases. Soon after his return in 1946, Meyner ran unsuccessfully for a congressional seat in the 7th District against J. Parnell Thomas. Meyner was elected to the state senate seat in Warren County by defeating Republican Wayne Dumont, Jr. in 1947. While in office he served as minority leader in 1950, as chairman of the Democratic State Convention in 1951, and on numerous committees including Appropriations, Game and Fisheries, Highways, Labor, and Industry and Social Welfare. Meyner was defeated in his reelection bid by Dumont in 1951. In 1952 Meyner won a close gubernatorial primary election over Democrat Elmer H. Wene and was elected governor of New Jersey in the general election by defeating Paul L. Troast. He was the first Democrat to be elected Governor of New Jersey since 1940. Despite Republican majorities in both houses of the legislature in his first term and a Republican Senate in his second term, Meyner succeeded in enacting his legislative proposals and building the Democratic party in the state. Meyner was known for his commitment to an open government, the promotion of rigid law enforcement, and the exposure of crime and corruption. Meyner increased state aid to education and reorganized state government departments. He also worked to establish the "Green Acres" open space preservation system and oversaw the completion of the New Jersey Turnpike in 1954.

Meyner married Helen Day Stevenson, distant cousin of Adlai Stevenson, on January 19, 1957 at Oberlin, Ohio, and the couple moved into the recently refurbished Governor's mansion, Morven, in Princeton, New Jersey. That same year Meyner was elected to a second term as governor by defeating Senator Malcolm S. Forbes; he was the first governor in the history of the state to be elected to a second four-year term. In his second term he continued to be a prudent administrator and recommended further improvements in transportation and education. At the 1960 National Democratic Convention, Meyner gained the spotlight by joining Lyndon B. Johnson and Stuart Symington to block the nomination of John F. Kennedy. After completing his second term in 1962, Meyner returned to private law practice in Newark and Phillipsburg, New Jersey. Meyner won the Democratic nomination for the governorship of New Jersey again in 1969, but lost in the general election to Republican William T. Cahill.

Meyner served on the board of several organizations including the Phillipsburg National Bank and Trust Company, First National State Bancorporation, the Delaware and Bound Brook Railroad, Prudential Insurance Company, and Engelhard Corporation. He was also a member of many civic organizations and clubs including the Pomfret Club of Easton, and he was a Trustee of the New Jersey Bar Association. He served as a chairman of the Commission to study Meadowland Development, the New Jersey Bicentennial Celebration Commission, The President's Commission for the Observance of Human Rights Year 1968, and co-chairman of the Interracial Council for Business Opportunity.

Meyner received numerous awards, citations, and honorary degrees including a Doctor of Laws from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey (1954), Lafayette College (1954) where he made the commencement address, and Princeton University (1956). Other honorary doctorates include, Long Island University (1958), Fairleigh Dickinson University (1959), Syracuse University (1960), Lincoln University (1960), Colorado College (1961), and Paterson State College (1961). He received the George Washington Kidd Award from Lafayette College in 1975.

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© Lafayette College Libraries, Easton, PA
April 1996