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John W. Murphy, an Alderman in Newton, Massachusetts from 1911 to 1918, was the grandfather of New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy. (Photo: Newton Historical Society.)

St. Patrick’s Day: Alderman John W. Murphy

Governor’s grandfather was a four-term alderman in a Boston suburb

By David Wildstein, March 17 2023 7:04 am

The son of an Irish immigrant won a local election in a Boston suburb 112 years ago that would eventually impact New Jersey’s political landscape today.

After William J. Doherty decided not to seek re-election in 1910, Democrats held the seat when 34-year-old John W. Murphy, the grandfather of future New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, was elected in a landslide as an Alderman in Newton, Massachusetts’s first ward.

Murphy won 380-156, a 71% -29% margin over his Republican opponent, Paul W. Wing.

Alderman John W. Murphy’s home at 73 Jasset Street in Newton, Massachusetts. (Photo: RedFin.)

Newton also voted against issuing liquor licenses by a 2-1 margin, 68%-32%, allowing any establishment to sell alcohol.

When Murphy sought re-election to a second term, Newton Republicans also endorsed him, and he received 392 votes running unopposed.

In 1914, Murphy filed a complaint alleging that Newton Police Lt. William Soule refused to call a doctor when the request came from Italian immigrants.  That immigrant woke Murphy at 2 AM and used the Alderman’s phone to call a physician.

Murphy again had the support of Republicans when he sought re-election in 1914 and 1916 and spent eight years as an alderman.

He resigned as an alderman after being appointed to the Newton Board of Assessors in 1918 and was named chairman by Mayor Edwin Childs in 1928.  During his 30 years in the post, he won statewide acclaim for his work in reforming that way properties were assessed.  He was serving in that post when he died in 1948, at age 71.

His father, Philip Murphy, was born in Lougheney, Donegal, Ireland around 1839 and died in Newton in 1886.  John Murphy’s youngest son, Walter, was the governor’s father.

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