Home>Highlight>Three New Jersey insiders you’ve probably never heard of

Left to right: Guy George Gabrielson, Joseph Patrick Tumulty, and Amos J. Peaslee, Sr.

Three New Jersey insiders you’ve probably never heard of

By David Wildstein, December 27 2018 11:17 am

Joseph Tumulty was probably the most powerful political insider in New Jersey history, serving as Woodrow Wilson’s chief of staff through his two years as governor and eight years as president.

The scion of a politically active Jersey City family – his father was an assemblyman in the 1880’s – Tumulty was 28 when he was elected to the New Jersey State Assembly, the top vote-getter among twelve Democrats elected in 1907.

He helped recruit Princeton University President Woodrow Wilson to seek the Democratic nomination for governor in 1910 and helped run the campaign that resulted in a 54%-46% win over Republican Vivian Lewis.  He served as Wilson’s private secretary – a post that is equivalent to today’s chief of staff position.

Tumulty helped position Wilson as a presidential candidate in 1912, when he won the Democratic nomination on the 24th ballot.   After Wilson beat William Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt, Tumulty became the White House Chief of Staff – then known as the President’s private secretary.

After Wilson won re-election in 1916, he briefly fired Tumulty, who didn’t get along with the new First Lady.  He was rehired, but he was not as influential in Wilson’s second term.

After leaving the White House in 1921, Tumulty’s tell-all book upset Wilson, who never spoke to him again.

Tumulty remained in Washington, where he practiced law until his death in 1954 at age 73.  His nephew, James Tumulty, was an assemblyman, one-term congressman, deputy mayor of Jersey City and Superior Court Judge.  His son, Joseph Tumulty, Jr., took on Frank Hague’s machine as a candidate for Senate in 1940 but lost.  Another nephew, Joseph W. Tumulty, served in the New Jersey State Senate for four years before losing the 1977 Democratic primary to David Friedland.

Guy Gabrielson might have been one of New Jersey’s first conservative Republicans, an Iowa native who became Speaker of the New Jersey State Assembly and then Republican National Chairman.

He was elected to the State Assembly in 1925 and became speaker in 1929.  After leaving the legislature, he moved from East Orange to Bernardsville and became a top insider in New Jersey GOP politics.   He was state director of Alfred Landon’s 1936 presidential campaign, and of the 1940 GOP coordinated campaign – that was the last time New Jersey elected a President, a Governor and a U.S. Senator in the same year.

Gabrielson sough the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 1944 in a special election after the incumbent died.  He dropped out when party leaders coalesced behind H. Alexander Smith, a former Republican State Chairman.  As a consolation prize, Gabrielson became the Republican National Committeeman from New Jersey.

When Smith ran for re-election to a full term in 1946, Gabrielson threatened to challenge him in the Republican primary, but decided against it.

Republican National Chairman Hugh Scott resigned after Thomas Dewey lost the 1948 presidential election to Harry Truman.  Gabrielson ran for GOP national chairman and beat Dewey’s preferred candidate, South Dakotan Axel Beck, by five votes, 52-57.  That have the wing of the party allied with Ohio Senator Robert Taft control of the RNC.

Despite his preference of Taft, Gabrielson was viewed as fair and impartial when he presided over the 1952 Republican National Convention that nominated Dwight Eisenhower.

In 1960, Gabrielson endorsed conservative Robert Morris against incumbent Clifford Case in the U.S. Senate GOP primary.  He backed Barry Goldwater for the 1964 Republican presidential nomination.

Gabrielson died in 1976 at age 84.

Amos J. Peaslee was active in New Jersey politics and served as the Republican State Committeeman from Gloucester County and finance chairman of the New Jersey Republican State Committee before landing in a top White House post.

Peaslee grew up in Clarksboro, served as a U.S. Army major in World War I and in the U.S. Navy during World War II.   An international lawyer, he was president of the American Peace Society and played a role in writing the United Nations Charter.

He became involved in national politics in 1948 working on Harold Stassen’s presidential campaign.  In 1952, he played a role in Dwight Eisenhower’s campaign for the presidency.

Eisenhower named Peaslee as the U.S. Ambassador to Australia in 1953.  From 1956 to 1959, Peaslee worked on the White House staff as Deputy Special Assistant to the President.  He served as an advisor to the United States delegation to the United Nations in 1957, and as vice chairman of the U.S. delegation at the London Disarmament Discussions in 1957.

Peaslee died in 1969 at age 82.  One of his sons, Amos Peaslee, Jr., had served as mayor of East Greenwich.

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