Alfred E. Driscoll
Two-term New Jersey governor
Born: October 25, 1902, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Died: March 9, 1975, in Haddonfield, New Jersey
New Jersey Hall of Fame, Class of 2019-20: Public Service
Before he was the namesake of a well-traveled New Jersey bridge, Alfred E. Driscoll was a two-term New Jersey governor who used his office to push for a new state constitution; advance the cause of civil rights; improve the state’s infrastructure; and fight organized crime—among other achievements.
Born in Pittsburgh, Driscoll grew up in Haddonfield, where his ancestors had planted roots generations earlier. His mother’s involvement in civic affairs and education—she founded the Peddie School for Girls in Hightstown—is said to have influenced Driscoll’s own interest in public service. He excelled academically at Haddonfield High School, where he was captain of the debating and track teams. He attended Williams College and Harvard Law School and began his legal career with a firm in Camden.
Driscoll kicked off his political career with a run for a seat on the Haddonfield Board of Education. He served for seven years, including a period as board president, before resigning to run for the county commission. Attracting the attention of the statewide Republican Party, he ran for and won a seat in the state Senate, where he quickly rose to Senate Majority Leader.
Having earned a reputation for honesty, impartiality and independence in an era of machine politics, Driscoll was designated the state’s alcoholic beverage commissioner and then was given a seat on a commission to reorganize the state’s bloated administrative branch.
Driscoll won his first term as governor in 1946 with a promise of strong and efficient government. Although it was not part of his campaign platform, a revision of the state’s century-old constitution became an early Driscoll priority. Two prior administrations had failed at the task, but through hard work and careful compromise, Driscoll facilitated ratification of the state constitution that endures to this day. The constitution strengthened the executive branch, streamlined the judiciary, created a merit system for state employees, guaranteed collective bargaining for people in private employment, and—in a groundbreaking move—abolished segregation in the public schools and state militia.
During his administration, Driscoll also streamlined the state government and law-enforcement agencies, and gave new powers to the state attorney general, with an eye toward fighting organized crime. He further demonstrated his commitment to civil rights, signing legislation expanding the anti-segregation promises in the new constitution, including a landmark bill prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color or creed in any public accommodation.
Re-elected to a second term, Driscoll oversaw completion of the New Jersey Turnpike and initiated construction of the Garden State Parkway. (The parkway’s Driscoll Bridge over the Raritan River was named in his honor in 1974.) In his second term, Driscoll and New York governor Thomas E. Dewey created the bistate Waterfront Commission to combat racketeering on the Hudson River docks.
After leaving office, Driscoll served as president of the National Municipal League from 1963-1967, and chaired the New Jersey Turnpike Authority from 1969 until his death in 1975. He also served as president of the Warner-Lambert Pharmaceutical Company, now Pfizer.