Robert B. Meyner

Robert Baumle Meyner (July 3, 1908 – May 27, 1990) was an American Democratic Party politician, who served as the 44th Governor of New Jersey, from 1954 to 1962. Before being elected governor, Meyner represented Warren County in the New Jersey Senate from 1948 to 1951.

Robert B. Meyner
44th Governor of New Jersey
In office
January 19, 1954  January 16, 1962
Preceded byAlfred E. Driscoll
Succeeded byRichard J. Hughes
Member of the New Jersey Senate
In office
Personal details
Robert Baumle Meyner

(1908-07-03)July 3, 1908
Easton, Pennsylvania, U.S.
DiedMay 27, 1990(1990-05-27) (aged 81)
Captiva, Florida, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Helen Stevenson (m. 1957)
Alma materLafayette College
Columbia Law School

Early life

Meyner was born on July 3, 1908 in Easton, Pennsylvania, to Gustave Herman Meyner, Sr. (1878–1950) and Maria Sophia Bäumle (1881–1968). His father was a German American silk worker from Manchester, New Hampshire. His mother was German, but born in Birsfelden near Basel, in Switzerland, to Robert Bäumle from Harpolingen, Baden and to Franziska Oliva Thüring from Istein, Baden. Robert had an older brother, Gustave Herman Meyner Jr. (1907–1996). He also had a younger sister, Olive F. Meyner Wagner (1913–1982).[1]

In 1916, the Meyner family moved across the state border to Phillipsburg, New Jersey. They briefly settled in Paterson, New Jersey but had returned to Phillipsburg by 1922. Meyner graduated from Phillipsburg High School in 1926, and entered Lafayette College, where he majored in government and law.[2] He was a brother of the Alpha Chi Rho fraternity. In 1928, Meyner formed a club supporting Al Smith as a presidential candidate in the 1928 United States presidential election.[1] Smith was the nominee of the Democratic Party but lost the election to Herbert Hoover of the Republican Party.

In his senior year, Meyner was editor in chief of "The Lafayette", a student newspaper. After his graduation, he moved on to Columbia Law School, where he was awarded an LL.B. degree in 1933.[1]

While still in school, Meyner had been employed as an apprentice coremaker by the Warren Foundry and Pipe Corporation and Ingersoll Rand. During his college years, Meyner was employed as a weaver by the Gunning Silk Company. Following his graduation from Columbia, Meyner found employment as a law clerk in Union City. He was employed by J. Emil Walscheid and Milton Rosenkranz from February, 1933 to April, 1936.[1]

Political beginnings

Meyner returned to Phillipsburg in 1936, where he quickly became a well-known trial lawyer. His prominent involvement in civic and social affairs, as well as the recognition it generated, helped him in 1941 during his first bid for elected office. He lost a campaign for a seat in the New Jersey Senate by only fifty votes.

During World War II, Meyner served as an officer in the Navy, and he was discharged with the rank of lieutenant commander. After a failed run for federal office, he was elected to the state senate in 1947. Though he was the Senate Minority Leader in 1950, Meyner lost his seat in the election of 1952.

Governor of New Jersey

The ailing New Jersey Democratic Party chose him as its gubernatorial candidate in 1953, and he achieved a surprise victory, boosted by a minor scandal surrounding his opponent, Paul L. Troast. Meyner's first term was marked by strong support for state education and a general restructuring of the government.

While in his first term as governor, Meyner uncovered Employment Security Division Director (and former governor) Harold G. Hoffman's massive corruption scam, and suspended Hoffman on March 18, 1954. Meyner defeated Malcolm Forbes handily in 1957 in his bid for re-election.

In 1958, Time Magazine recognized Meyner as a potential candidate for the 1960 Democratic presidential nomination, and featured him on the cover of their November 24 edition of that year (along with five other noteworthy Democrats, including John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson).

At the 1960 Democratic National Convention Meyner received 43 votes for president, finishing fifth behind John F. Kennedy (806 votes), Lyndon Johnson (409 votes), Stuart Symington (86 votes) and Adlai Stevenson (79.5 votes) and just ahead of Hubert Humphrey who received 41 votes.

Meyner left office in January 1962. At the time, New Jersey's constitution prohibited governors from serving more than two consecutive terms, but did not place a limit on the total number of terms. After his Democratic successor, Richard J. Hughes had served two terms and was unable to run for a third, the Democratic Party turned back to Meyner as their gubernatorial candidate in 1969. But after 16 years of Democratic administrations, Republican William T. Cahill won election over Meyner.


Meyner married Helen Stevenson Meyner on January 19, 1957 in Oberlin, Ohio. Helen served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1975 until 1979.


Meyner had a stroke in 1986 and died on May 27, 1990, in Captiva, Florida.[3] He was cremated and his ashes are at Phillipsburg Cemetery in Phillipsburg.


  1. "Robert Baumle Meyner". Lafayette College. Archived from the original on July 3, 2007. Retrieved March 27, 2010.
  2. Robert B. Meyner, The Robert B. & Helen S. Meyner Center for the Study of State & Local Government, Lafayette College. Accessed March 14, 2011. "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 B. Meyner.... Robert Meyner was graduated from Phillipsburg High School in 1926, where he was class valedictorian and a member of the debating team."
  3. King, Wayne (May 29, 1990). "Robert B. Meyner Is Dead at 81; Flamboyant New Jersey Governor". The New York Times. Retrieved March 27, 2010. Robert B. Meyner, who revitalized the Democratic Party in New Jersey and rose to national prominence during two terms as Governor in the 1950s and early 60s, died Sunday at his home in Captiva, Fla., after a long illness. He was 81 years old and had been in declining health since suffering a stroke in 1986.
Political offices
Preceded by
Alfred E. Driscoll
Governor of New Jersey
January 19, 1954 – January 16, 1962
Succeeded by
Richard J. Hughes
Party political offices
Preceded by
Elmer H. Wene
Democratic nominee for Governor of New Jersey
1953, 1957
Succeeded by
Richard J. Hughes
Preceded by
Richard J. Hughes
Democratic nominee for Governor of New Jersey
Succeeded by
Brendan Byrne
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