Before settling on Old Bridge, voters in the Middlesex County municipality rejected changing the name of their township from Madison to Kennedy Township in a vote that happened less than a year after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
Madison had been mulling a name change for several years to avoid confusion with Madison in Morris County, which was better known as the host community for two college campuses. Among other identity issues: mail was often sent to the other Madison; zip codes were not introduced until 1963.
The original suggestion for Kennedy Township was made by Joseph Hoff, a Democratic township committeeman, seven months before the assassination and a year before the president was to seek re-election.
Republican municipal chairman Donald Borst opposed the idea, instead suggesting Madison become Eisenhower Township instead.
One week after Kennedy was shot, the township committee unanimously voted to endorse the Kennedy Township name change. Within a week, more than enough signatures were filed to force a referendum.
While the move initially enjoyed bi-partisan support, Republicans came to believe that the local Democrats were politicizing the referendum for their own advantage headed into the 1964 general election.
Voters wound up overwhelmingly rejecting the name change by a 2-1 margin: 3,413 voted for Kennedy Township and 6,541 voted against it.
In 1975, voters approved a referendum to change the township’s name to Old Bridge, by a 59%-41% margin, 7,150 to 4,888.
The original name, Madison, was chosen to honor James Madison, the fourth president of the United States.