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Ruth Grey Bedford, a fixture in Essex County Republican politics for decades and the sister of former New Jersey Secretary of State Jane Burgio, died on August 19. She was 101.
She became active in the Essex Young Republicans in the early 1950s and was elected an Alternate District Delegate to the 1956 Republican National Convention, pledged to President Dwight Eisenhower.
It was during her involvement in Republican politics that she met Stanley G. Bedford, an attorney who would go on to serve as Essex County Republican Chairman, Nutley Republican Municipal Chairman and, from 1972 to 1987, as a Superior Court Judge. After his retirement from the bench, he served as a Commissioner of the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.
They married in 1957.
Ruth Bedford was a Republican candidate for State Assembly in 1959.
In those days, Essex had twelve Assembly seats and all were elected in a countywide at-large election. Republicans won seven of the seats.
Bedford finished 20th, losing by just 2,660 votes in what was a close race.
Stanley Bedford made headlines in 1974 when he upheld the constitutionality of a 1796 state law that made fornication outside marriage a crime.
In that case, prosecutors had added the charge to a married man who had been accused of rape. The American Civil Liberties Union had challenged that charge and Bedford ruled that there were compelling secular reasons to enforce the law.
Her sister was the Vice Chair of the Essex County Republican Committee, an assemblywoman from 1974 to 1982, and Secretary of State for the full eight years of Thomas Kean’s governorship.
Ruth Bedford worked as secretary to the chairman of the W.T. Grant Company and ran the Grant Charitable Trust that offered scholarships to children of the retail chain’s employees.
She later served as president of the Nutley Family Service Bureau and on the board of Planned Parenthood of New Jersey. Bedford also headed the North Jersey Child Guidance Clinic.
Her grandfather, Abram Blum, was the first Mayor of Nutley.
Stanley Bedford died in 1999 and Burgio in 2005.
A memorial service is scheduled for September 7 at the Grace Episcopal Church in Nutley.