Born in West Orange, New Jersey, the fourth of five children of Francis A. Byrne (1888-1973) and his spouse Genevieve (Brennan) Byrne. Francis, a long-time local politician, served as West Orange Tax Assessor, chair of the West Orange Zoning Board of Adjustment, West Orange Town Commissioner and member of the Essex County Tax Board.
Graduates from West Orange High School, where he served as president of the debating club and senior class president. After graduation, Byrne enrolls at Seton Hall University.
Leaves Seton Hall to enlist in the Army Air Corps in World War II. He completes over 50 combat missions as a B-17 navigator in the European Theater, and his service earns him the Distinguished Flying Cross, four Air Medals, and a Presidential Unit Citation.
Following the end of the war, honorably discharged from military service, having attained the rank of lieutenant with the 414th Bomb Squadron of the 15th Air Force. He subsequently serves in the U.S. Air Force Reserve and enrolls at Princeton University under the G.I. Bill.
Graduates from Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs with an A.B. upon completion of the thesis Proportional Representation in Municipal Government. Enrolls in Harvard Law School.
Graduates from Harvard Law School with L.L.B. and begins clerking for Judge Joseph Weintraub.
Passes the New Jersey bar exam and begins law career at the firm of McGlynn, Weintraub and Stein.
Enters politics for the first time, serving on the West Orange Planning Board and continues as a member until January 1, 1958.
Marries Jean Featherly, a school teacher from West Orange.
Jean Byrne gives birth to the Byrnes’ first child, son Brendan T. “Tom” Byrne Jr. They later would have Tim, Mary Anne, Barbara and Bill.
Appointed Assistant Counsel to Governor Robert B. Meyner.
Appointed Acting Executive Secretary to Governor Robert B. Meyner.
Appointed as Deputy Attorney General in charge of Essex County prosecutor’s office.
Appointed by Governor Meyner to full term as Essex County Prosecutor.
Appointed to second term as Essex County Prosecutor by Governor Richard J. Hughes.
During second term as prosecutor, serves as president of the County Prosecutor’s Association of New Jersey and vice president of the National District Attorneys Association.
Helps found Intercontinental Life Insurance Company with other principals including law partner Martin L. Greenberg. Serves as chairman of the board until his resignation in 1970.
Appointed by Governor Richard J. Hughes as President of the New Jersey Board of Public Utility Commissioners.
Appointed to the Executive Commission on Ethical Standards
Nominated by Governor William T. Cahill and confirmed by the State Senate for position as Superior Court Judge in Essex County. Resigns all posts at the Intercontinental Life Insurance Company as well as his position as director at the Broad National Bank in Newark and his partnership in the law firm of Teltser, Byrne and Greenberg in East Orange.
Appointed Superior Court Assignment Judge for Morris, Sussex and Warren Counties.
Resigns as Superior Court Judge and enters the Democratic Gubernatorial primary.
Defeats Ralph DeRose and Anne Klein in the Democratic primary, winning the party’s nomination for Governor. Congressman Charles Sandman defeats incumbent Governor William Cahill for the Republican nomination.
Elected Governor of New Jersey, defeating Congressman Sandman by 721,000 votes, the largest plurality in the State’s history.
Sworn in as 54th Governor of New Jersey
The Byrne family moves into Morven, the Governor’s mansion in Princeton, leaving Byrne’s life-long home of West Orange
1974 – 1978; First term as governor
In first executive order, declares and energy emergency and establishes “odd-even” gas rationing in response to crisis caused by Arab oil embargo.
Inaugurates public financing for future gubernatorial general elections. New Jersey is the first state to do so.
Institutes the state’s first income tax, becoming one of the last states to have such a tax.
Imposes spending limits on local, county and state government, as well as school districts
Creates the Department of the Public Advocate and the Department of Energy
Faces 10 opponents in the Democratic primary election, but emerges as the party’s nominee.
Despite being down as many as 20 points in initial polls, Byrne wins reelection over State Senator Raymond Bateman.
1978 – 1982; Second term as governor
Passes the Pinelands Protection Act, regulating development of over one-fifth of New Jersey land
Oversees major highway expansions, including Route 287 and the Atlantic City Expressway.
Opens casino-hotel gambling in Atlantic City.
Continues to develop the Meadowlands Sports Complex.
Orders mandatory water rationing in North and Central New Jersey, effecting over 3 million residents after reports show reservoirs hold less than a 40-day supply of water.
Completes second term as governor as successor Thomas H. Kean is sworn in to office. Family relocates from Morven Governor’s Residence to a private residence in Princeton.
Joins law firm of Carella, Bain, Gilfillan and Rhodes as a partner, which later changes its name to Carella, Byrne, Bain and Gilfillan. Firm’s senior partner Charles Carella previously served as an Essex County assistant prosecutor under Byrne and later as executive director of NJ Lottery Commission and as Executive Secretary to Byrne in Governor’s Office.
Joins boards of directors of Prudential Insurance Company of America; New Jersey Bell Telephone Co.; and Jamesway Corp.
Appointed Chair of the Council on New Jersey Affairs, a position he holds until 1989
Elected to the board of directors of Ingersoll-Rand Co.
After nomination by Governor Kean and confirmation by State Senate, begins serving as a commissioner of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority for a four-year term ending in January 1993
Marriage to Jean Byrne is dissolved by divorce.
Marries public relations executive Ruth Zinn
Becomes a director of the Mack-Cali Realty Corporation.
Son, Brendan T. Byrne Jr., is elected Chair of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee.
Lebanon State Forest, located in the Pinelands, is renamed Brendan T. Byrne State Forest