Former New Jersey Gov. William T. Cahill died on July 1, 1996, in Haddonfield, after having spent the better part of his 84 years serving the community, first as a Camden City prosecutor; then Camden County assistant prosecutor; New Jersey special deputy attorney general; State Asssemblyman, Congressman; Governor; and, finally, as a teacher at Princeton University.
The son of Irish immigrants, Cahill was born on June 25, 1912, in Philadelphia. As a boy, his family moved to Camden, and he was a successful baseball and basketball player at Camden Catholic High School.
In 1933, he graduated from St. Joseph’s College (now University), and in 1937, received his law degree from Rutgers Law School.
After spending the next two years as an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, he started a career in politics, becoming city prosecutor of Camden (1944-45); first assistant prosecutor of Camden County (1948-51); and special deputy attorney general of New Jersey (1951), before his time as a member of the New Jersey General Assembly from 1951-1953.
He served two years in the New Jersey State Assembly, before being elected to Congress in 1958.
In 1969, he ran for New Jersey governor as a member of the Republican party and defeated competitor Robert B. Meyner by more than half a million votes, one of the biggest landslide victories in New Jersey’s history.
During his tenure as governor, the state sales tax increased from 3 percent to 5 percent, and he was influential in getting the New York Giants football team to move their playing field from Yankee Stadium to the Meadowlands. As well, he pushed for, and successfully received, a state lottery.
Cahill helped with the creation of the Department of Environmental Protection, and the Coastal Area Facility Review Act to protect the state’s wetlands and coastal areas was passed during his administration.
Viewed positively by labor leaders and blue collar workers, Cahill was seen as a moderate Republican and at one time was considered as a running mate for Richard Nixon’s 1972 campaign. However, scandals involving associates and opposition to his tax proposals resulted in his defeat in the 1973 Republican gubernatorial primary.
After leaving office, Cahill practiced law and taught at Princeton University as a senior fellow at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
In 1995 Pope John Paul II named Cahill a Knight of St Gregory the Great. The papal honor was presented to the former governor by Bishop James T. McHugh.
Researched by Peter G. Sánchez and James A. McBride
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