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Veterans: Six World War I veterans elected to NJ Assembly

By David Wildstein, May 25 2020 12:04 am

Six young World War I veterans were elected to the New Jersey State Assembly during the first three years after the war ended: Francis A. Stanton (D-Hoboken) and Thomas Lloyd Lewis (R-Asbury Park) in 1918; Felix Forlenza (D-South Orange) and William A. Moore (R-Trenton) in 1919; and John J. Roegner (R-Passaic) and Harry Runyan (D-Belvidere) in 1920.

Stanton was a Field Artillery Lieutenant in the U.S. Army who was discharged in June 1918 due to physical disability.  He was the 30-year-old son of Edward R. Stanton, a former mayor of Hoboken and Hudson County Sheriff.

Lewis was the superintendent of the Anti-Saloon League of New Jersey – think of the position as executive director of the prohibition issue advocacy group at the time – when he was elected to the State Assembly in 1917 at age 28.  He was serving in the legislature when he enlisted in the U.S. Army as a private in 1918.  He was re-elected to a second term even though his military service made it impossible for him to campaign.

Forlenza was 29 when he was elected South Orange Village Trustee in 1917, but resigned one year later to enlist in the U.S. Army.  He served in the Ordinance Branch of the American Expeditionary Forces in France until his discharge in 1919.  Later that year, he won a State Assembly seat by 2,162 votes, a margin that was the equivalent of a 51.5%-48.5% margin over the top Republican vote-getter.

After serving in the Assembly, Forlenza served as an Essex County court judge and briefly as the Essex County Democratic Chairman.  In 1950, Reps. Peter Rodino (D-Newark) and Hugh Addonizio (D-Newark) lobbied President Harry S. Truman to nominate Forlenza as U.S. Attorney, but Truman went with Grover C. Richman, who had spent six years as the number two man in the federal prosecutor’s office.

A 27-year-old lawyer, Moore served in the U.S. Army for 20 months, including one year as a combat solider in France.  He was the top vote-getter in 1919 on a three-person Republican ticket that president of the Mercer County Board of Agriculture and the secretary of the Mercer County Central Labor Council.

Roegner was 25 when he won his first of three one-year terms in the State Assembly.  He had served as a U.S. Army lieutenant in the 48th infantry.  Roegner later served on the Passaic City Council from 1923 to 1939; he was mayor of Passaic from 1927 to 1933.

Republicans won 39 of 40 Assembly seats in 1920 and the lone Democratic winner was the 28-year-old Runyan, who was probably the youngest legislative leader in state history as the minority leader of a caucus of one. A former mayor of Belvidere, Runyan served two years in the Army.  He was re-elected to the Assembly in 1921 and 1922 and represented Warren County in the State Senate from 1939 to 1947.

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