Martindell combined gentility and a commitment to the voiceless

State Sen. Anne Martindell of Princeton, who died yesterday at 93, championed the underdog throughout a life marked by public service and a thirst for knowledge and self-improvement. In the words of her son, Princeton Councilman Roger Martindell, “she fought for what she believed in, and she was gracious in the fight.”

Elected to the state Senate as a Democrat in 1973 as part of the Watergate backlash that landed a number of Democrats in the Statehouse to form a 28-12 Democratic majority, Martindell served one term before becoming President Jimmy Carter’s Ambassador to New Zealand.

In her eighties, she doubled back on the college career she never completed. Sixty-years after leaving Smith College following her freshman year, Martindell obtained her Bachelor’s degree from Smith and an honorary doctorate of law in 2002.

On Thursday, news of her death brought forth an outpouring of goodwill from those who knew her and those with whom she served in Trenton, including former Gov. Brendan T. Byrne.

“Anne Martindell published her autobiography Never Too Late and introduced it just days days before she died,” Bryne said in a statement. “The book is a great recap of an illustrious life.

“Anne was a patrician, a Democrat and a liberal leader as well as a statesman who represented the U.S. as ambassador to New Zealand during the Carter years,” the former governor said. “She served in the New Jersey Senate during my first term and supported liberal legislation. She was determined to make a difference and she did. We will miss her.”

Martindell was the daughter of federal Judge William J. Clark and came from a family of Republicans going back to the Civil War era. A great-grandfather served in Lincoln’s cabinet.

Born in the Plaza Hotel in New York City in 1914, she moved to Princeton with her parents in 1923, and went to Smith College in 1932 as a member of the Class of 1936. She dreamed of following her father into the law, but after her freshman year her parents told her she needed to get married and settle down. She married in what would have been her sophomore year at Smith.

Her parents were among those who changed parties during the era of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and her own wealthy background coupled with the suffering she saw during the Depression created what her son said was the lifelong basis for her progressive, Democratic Party politics.

“In national terms, what can we do?” she wrote in Never Too Late. “We seem to be going down a path that our founding fathers would find horrifying, expanding the powers of the President while abandoning the poor on the pretext of promoting an ownership society. Worldwide, as well, we are abandoning the poor. Americans are intrinsically generous but they need to be shown the way. We need to understand that natural resources are limited, that the environment is fragile, and that lesson must be learned before it is too late. If we could all join together, we can see that there is still time for us to act.”

After raising her three children from her first marriage, and inspired by her brother’s work on the 1968 presidential campaign of Sen. Eugene McCarthy, Martindell entered politics at the state level. As the senator of a district that at the time included GOP-dominant Hunterdon County, she joined the ranks of other Democrats whose districts had traditionally been served by Republicans.

“Prior to the late Nixon years, the only Democrats from South Jersey who were in the Legislature were Jim Florio and John Horn in 1971 – both assembly-people,” recalled former state Sen. Joseph Maressa (D-Camden). “The next year, there were two Republicans left, among them Jimmy Cafiero, as a result of the anti-Nixon landslide.”

“I was the first Democrat in my district voted into the Senate in 96 years,” said former Sen. President John F. Russo (D-Ocean).

Having beaten Republican state Sen. Bill Schluter, Martindell’s attention in the Senate to the needs of the underprivileged and under-served, particularly in the area of mental health, impressed those with whom she worked.

“She sat next to me and had a significant impact on me,” said former Sen. Martin Greenberg (D-Essex).

“There are a couple of adjectives I would use to describe her,” he said. “She was an absolutely compassionate, sensitive and caring person. Any issue in which those attributes were relevant, you knew where she was. She was not politically oriented, she was a person who wanted to do good, and someone you went to when you wanted to see where the light was.”

Greenberg said if Martindell believed a bill was unfair to people without means, she rose in opposition.

“She was for the underdog, and strongly in favor of legislation that would help people,” said the former senator.

Her reputation as a people’s champion extended to her advocacy on behalf of fellow legislators. One of three women serving in the Senate at the time, the devotee of Eleanor Roosevelt who voted for Hillary Clinton earlier this year, looked out for those of her own gender in the old boy’s club atmosphere of state politics.

“Anne was never part of the club,” said former Sen. Alene Ammond (D-Camden), the last surviving woman senator from that era, which also included Sen. Wynona Lipman (D-Essex). “For most men who went to the Senate, it was hard not to become part of that club in the Democratic caucus. It was really a lot of teenage boys acting up essentially. But Anne – Anne was highly intelligent.”

Ammond ran afoul of party leadership at one point and found herself on the Camden County machine’s chopping block. She fought back by taking hushed up power-player conversations to the press and agitating for state investigations of key lawmakers. When party brass announced that the caucus had determined unanimously to toss her, Martindell protested.

“She held a press conference by herself – it took a lot of courage to do that and I’ll never forget it – and she put it on the record that the vote to oust me was not unanimous at all,” Ammond recalled. “She was a fine person, and so genteel.”

For his part, former state Sen. James Cafiero (R-Cape May), a 14-year veteran of the Legislature, laments the partisanship at the Statehouse today compared to what he calls across-the-aisle fellowship back then as a matter of course. By his recollection, Martindell fit right into that era.

“Sen. Martindell was a sweet lady and a very capable legislator,” Cafiero said. “She didn’t have a nasty bone in her body. She got along well with everybody.”

By the time the Nixon scandal withered away in the public consciousness, the Byrne era rose statewide.

The governor’s successful efforts to save the Pine Barrens proved unpopular with builders and developers in South Jersey, and that coupled with an income tax hike cleared the decks of a lot of those Democrats who’d washed in with Watergate.

Sen. Steve Wiley (D-Morris), for example, was among those 1973 Democrats who didn’t see a second term.

A former federal prosecutor and a conservative-moderate, Russo hung on and ended up and running unsuccessfully for governor in the 1980s and serving as senate president in a Trenton career that spanned two decades. Sen. Raymond Zane (D-Gloucester) likewise survived, and years later changed parties as he tried to fend off George Norcross and the South Jersey Democratic Organization.

“She was a lady with real class,” Zane said of Martindell. “She was a classy person, well-bred and well-educated and committed to doing a good job.”

Given the way people felt about her in both parties, it was no surprise when Martindell, instead of running for a second term, became an international diplomat.

“We have the opportunity, each of us, to be well informed and to seek to understand the complexities of our time and place,” she wrote. “We can become students of our own history—personal, political, global—learning its lessons, leaving behind the repetitive cycle of its mistakes, and continually striving for positive change. It’s never too late.”

Former Senate Majority Leader Steve Perskie (D-Atlantic), who served in the Assembly when Martindell was in the Senate, called her a “wonderful woman and a great ally.” Perskie said it was “hard to compete with her as an adversary because she didn’t want or need to compromise when she felt strongly.”

Martindell’s two husbands predeceased her. She is survived by a brother, Jay William Clark of Great Barrington, Mass.; three children from her first marriage: Marjory Luther of Andover, Mich., George Cole Scott of Richmond, Va., and David C. Scott of Princeton; one son from her second marriage, Roger Martindell; nine grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

Her book, Never Too Late, is published by Blanche Brann of Company Boxed Books in Lawrenceville.

“Anne Martindell published her autobiography Never Too Late and introduced it just days days before she died,” Bryne said in a statement. “The book is a great recap of an illustrious life.

“Anne was a patrician, a Democrat and a liberal leader as well as a statesman who represented the U.S. as ambassador to New Zealand during the Carter years,” the former governor said. “She served in the New Jersey Senate during my first term and supported liberal legislation. She was determined to make a difference and she did. We will miss her.”

Martindell was the daughter of federal Judge William J. Clark and came from a family of Republicans going back to the Civil War era. A great-grandfather served in Lincoln’s cabinet.

Born in the Plaza Hotel in New York City in 1914, she moved to Princeton with her parents in 1923, and went to Smith College in 1932 as a member of the Class of 1936. She dreamed of following her father into the law, but after her freshman year her parents told her she needed to get married and settle down. She married in what would have been her sophomore year at Smith.

Her parents were among those who changed parties during the era of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and her own wealthy background coupled with the suffering she saw during the Depression created what her son said was the lifelong basis for her progressive, Democratic Party politics.

“In national terms, what can we do?” she wrote in Never Too Late. “We seem to be going down a path that our founding fathers would find horrifying, expanding the powers of the President while abandoning the poor on the pretext of promoting an ownership society. Worldwide, as well, we are abandoning the poor. Americans are intrinsically generous but they need to be shown the way. We need to understand that natural resources are limited, that the environment is fragile, and that lesson must be learned before it is too late. If we could all join together, we can see that there is still time for us to act.”

After raising her three children from her first marriage, and inspired by her brother’s work on the 1968 presidential campaign of Sen. Eugene McCarthy, Martindell entered politics at the state level. As the senator of a district that at the time included GOP-dominant Hunterdon County, she joined the ranks of other Democrats whose districts had traditionally been served by Republicans.

“Prior to the late Nixon years, the only Democrats from South Jersey who were in the Legislature were Jim Florio and John Horn in 1971 – both assembly-people,” recalled former state Sen. Joseph Maressa (D-Camden). “The next year, there were two Republicans left, among them Jimmy Cafiero, as a result of the anti-Nixon landslide.”

“I was the first Democrat in my district voted into the Senate in 96 years,” said former Sen. President John F. Russo (D-Ocean).

Having beaten Republican state Sen. Bill Schluter, Martindell’s attention in the Senate to the needs of the underprivileged and under-served, particularly in the area of mental health, impressed those with whom she worked.

“She sat next to me and had a significant impact on me,” said former Sen. Martin Greenberg (D-Essex).

“There are a couple of adjectives I would use to describe her,” he said. “She was an absolutely compassionate, sensitive and caring person. Any issue in which those attributes were relevant, you knew where she was. She was not politically oriented, she was a person who wanted to do good, and someone you went to when you wanted to see where the light was.”

Greenberg said if Martindell believed a bill was unfair to people without means, she rose in opposition.

“She was for the underdog, and strongly in favor of legislation that would help people,” said the former senator.

Her reputation as a people’s champion extended to her advocacy on behalf of fellow legislators. One of three women serving in the Senate at the time, the devotee of Eleanor Roosevelt who voted for Hillary Clinton earlier this year, looked out for those of her own gender in the old boy’s club atmosphere of state politics.

“Anne was never part of the club,” said former Sen. Alene Ammond (D-Camden), the last surviving woman senator from that era, which also included Sen. Wynona Lipman (D-Essex). “For most men who went to the Senate, it was hard not to become part of that club in the Democratic caucus. It was really a lot of teenage boys acting up essentially. But Anne – Anne was highly intelligent.”

Ammond ran afoul of party leadership at one point and found herself on the Camden County machine’s chopping block. She fought back by taking hushed up power-player conversations to the press and agitating for state investigations of key lawmakers. When party brass announced that the caucus had determined unanimously to toss her, Martindell protested.

“She held a press conference by herself – it took a lot of courage to do that and I’ll never forget it – and she put it on the record that the vote to oust me was not unanimous at all,” Ammond recalled. “She was a fine person, and so genteel.”

For his part, former state Sen. James Cafiero (R-Cape May), a 14-year veteran of the Legislature, laments the partisanship at the Statehouse today compared to what he calls across-the-aisle fellowship back then as a matter of course. By his recollection, Martindell fit right into that era.

“Sen. Martindell was a sweet lady and a very capable legislator,” Cafiero said. “She didn’t have a nasty bone in her body. She got along well with everybody.”

By the time the Nixon scandal withered away in the public consciousness, the Byrne era rose statewide.

The governor’s successful efforts to save the Pine Barrens proved unpopular with builders and developers in South Jersey, and that coupled with an income tax hike cleared the decks of a lot of those Democrats who’d washed in with Watergate.

Sen. Steve Wiley (D-Morris), for example, was among those 1973 Democrats who didn’t see a second term.

A former federal prosecutor and a conservative-moderate, Russo hung on and ended up and running unsuccessfully for governor in the 1980s and serving as senate president in a Trenton career that spanned two decades. Sen. Raymond Zane (D-Gloucester) likewise survived, and years later changed parties as he tried to fend off George Norcross and the South Jersey Democratic Organization.

“She was a lady with real class,” Zane said of Martindell. “She was a classy person, well-bred and well-educated and committed to doing a good job.”

Given the way people felt about her in both parties, it was no surprise when Martindell, instead of running for a second term, became an international diplomat.

“We have the opportunity, each of us, to be well informed and to seek to understand the complexities of our time and place,” she wrote. “We can become students of our own history—personal, political, global—learning its lessons, leaving behind the repetitive cycle of its mistakes, and continually striving for positive change. It’s never too late.”

Martindell’s two husbands predeceased her. She is survived by a brother, Jay William Clark of Great Barrington, Mass.; three children from her first marriage: Marjory Luther of Andover, Mich., George Cole Scott of Richmond, Va., and David C. Scott of Princeton; one son from her second marriage, Roger Martindell; nine grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

Her book, Never Too Late, is published by Blanche Brann of Company Boxed Books in Lawrenceville.

Martindell combined gentility and a commitment to the voiceless