Webster B. Todd, Jr., a former assemblyman, Nixon White House aide, and the brother of former Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, has died. He was 82.
Known as Dan Todd, he was a member of one of New Jersey’s most prominent New Jersey families. His father, Webster Todd, was a former GOP State Chairman and political powerhouse. His mother, Eleonor Todd, was the longtime Republican National Committeewoman from New Jersey.
“Dan had the spirit of a renaissance man, and we will cherish the stories he told of his adventures,” said Gov. Phil Murphy in a statement. “We will miss him greatly.”
He became involved in politics at an early age, working for Republican statewide candidates like Malcom Forbes for Governor in 1957 and Robert W. Kean for U.S. Senate in 1958.
Todd was elected to the State Assembly in 1967 at age 29, to represent all of Somerset County.
Reapportionment gave Somerset two Assembly seats instead of one. Former Senate President William Ozzard (R-Somerville) left the Senate to join the Board of Public Utilities and Assemblyman Raymond Bateman (R-Branchburg) won the open Senate seat.
Among the Republicans considered for the Assembly seats were former Bernardsville Councilwoman Millicent Fenwick and former Somerset County Freeholder Director William Lanigan, but party leaders settled on Todd and Somerset County Freeholder John Ewing.
Todd was the top vote-getter in the Republican primary, running 660 votes ahead of Ewing. He defeated William A.K. Ryan, a former aide to Ozzard, by 1,602 votes.
The two GOP candidates romped to a landslide win in the general election, with Todd outpolling Democrat B. Thomas Leahy, a Somerset County Freeholder and later a Superior Court Judge, by 13,806 votes.
As an assemblyman, Todd emerged as a harsh critic of Rutgers University, especially after their handling of student protests of the war in Vietnam. He pushed for the firing of the Rutgers president, Dr. Mason W. Gross. He became a staunch supporter of audit controls for state government agencies.
He was also decried the Republican-controlled legislators, expressing frustration with the slow pace moving issues forward and bashed internal competition over bill sponsorship. Todd once called the legislature a “circus” and compared it to the monkey house at the Bronx Zoo.” He rarely hesitated to call out lawmakers of both parties.
Todd was unopposed in the 1969 GOP primary for re-election to a second term but withdrew from the race in September after announcing that he was under consideration for a post in the fledgling administration of President Richard M. Nixon.
Somerset Republican leaders picked Fenwick to replace him on the Assembly ticket.
After completing his term in the legislature, Todd moved to Washington to take a top post at the U.S. Department of Transportation as an advisor to Civil Aeronautics Board Chairman Secor D. Browne.
In 1971, Todd moved to the Nixon White House staff as executive director of the White House Conference on Aging. He moved to the Committee to Re-elect the President in 1972 as the coordinators of senior citizen outreach. He later became a deputy special assistant to the president.
Following the retirement of Rep. Peter H.B. Frelinghuysen (R-Harding) in 1974, Todd considered a bid for the Republican nomination for Congress in a Somerset/Morris district that included parts of Essex and Mercer counties. He declined to run, stating that he would never run against his friend, Thomas H. Kean, the Assembly Minority Leader and former Speaker. Todd and Kean were freshmen legislators together.
After Todd dropped out of the race, Fenwick entered and defeated Kean in the GOP primary by 83 votes.
Todd served at the U.S. Department of State as the Inspector General of Foreign Assistance from 1974 to 1976. The job carried the rank of Assistant U.S. Secretary of State.
Todd had a lifelong interest in aviation. He was the president of the New Jersey Aviation Trades Association and ran the Princeton Aviation Corporation, which operated the Princeton Airport in Montgomery Township. He served a director of air safety for the Airline Pilots Association, as senior vice president of Frontier Airlines, and as Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.
He was awarded The Wright Brothers “Master Pilot Award” for fifty years dedicated service in aviation safety by the by the United States Federal Aviation Administration in 2014 and was inducted into the New Jersey Aviation Hall of Fame in 2019.
He later moved to Montana and became a rancher and a licensed fishing guide, but has maintained a residence in New Jersey
When his sister challenged Gov. Jim Florio in 1993, Todd returned to New Jersey to play a key role in her successful gubernatorial campaign. He served as campaign manager in the general election.
In the last decade, Todd became a board member of Compassionate Sciences, Inc., one of the first licensed medical marijuana dispensaries in the state.
A graduate of Princeton University and Stanford Law School, Todd was a firefighter and former president of the Oldwick Volunteer Fire Department.
He was a graduate of Princeton University and attended Stanford Law School before deciding he wasn’t interested in being a lawyer.
Murphy said that he and First Lady Tammy Murphy were “deeply saddened” by the death of Todd, describing him as a “dear personal friend of ours.”
In addition to his sister, Todd is survived by his wife, Barbara, six children, and four grandchildren.
A celebration of Todd’s life will be held on June 18 at the Oldwick Fire Department.
This story was updated at 2:37 PM with comment from Murphy.