James P. Dugan, a long-time major participant and influence in New Jersey politics and government, passed away today at the age of 92 after a long illness.
Jim and his wife, Ruth, residents of Saddle River, had been married for 40 years. Along with Ruth, he is survived by six children and nineteen grandchildren.
Jim spent his early years in Bayonne, where he was born on July 4, 1929. A Democrat, he represented Bayonne, as an Assemblyman and then State Senator.
He encouraged Brendan Byrne to run for Governor. He became the Democratic State Chairman and served during the years of the Brendan Byrne gubernatorial administration.
During his tenure in the legislature, he sponsored or guided into law many significant pieces of legislation. Those were the renaissance years for New Jersey with legislation establishing the New Jersey Sports and Exhibition Meadowlands Complex, The Casino Control Act and the Preservation of the Pinelands among them.
As a legislator Jim spoke against the death penalty and worked for years to create a district for Newark that would assure minority representation. He was quoted as saying “There are a million black people that live in this state and many of them live in and around Newark and unless we do something now the chances of seeing a black elected to Congress in the next generation are not good at all” (1974).
His many accomplishments are now legend in the political history of New Jersey. As a developer Jim’s vision helped to shape Jersey City as we know it now. Legislation and foresight brought the vision and use of over 300 acres into place and brought major developers Mel Simon and Sam LeFrak to Jersey City.
Jim was the model of a Jesuit education with St. Peter’s Prep and Fordham Law School in his life. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Missouri. Fordham recognized him with the Distinguished Alumnus Award.
He also participated and supported the efforts of The College of Holy Cross and Seton Hall Law School. He was active in many organizations that provide care for families and especially for children.
As a young man Jim joined the Marines and went to Korea. It was a seminal moment in his life. He was injured and was airlifted out. He was discharged a Captain after receiving The Purple Heart.
Later in life he shared that moment with Alan Alda on the set of MASH. During that visit he was trying to engage NJ resident and activist Alan Alda to run for the NJ Senate.
In his legal career he litigated complex commercial projects and also argued intellectual property issues before the International Trade Commission. One of his best collaborations was his law partnership with Lawrence Bathgate. It was the joining of two titans from two different political parties.
Funeral arrangements will be announced.