HARDING, N.J. — A retired congressman from New Jersey and member of one of the state’s oldest political dynasties has died.
Peter Frelinghuysen Jr. died Monday at his home in Harding Township. He was 95.
The World War II veteran was first elected in 1952 on the same Republican ticket as President Dwight Eisenhower. He represented the affluent counties of Morris and Somerset, as well as and portions of neighboring counties, until 1974.
He was the fifth member of the Frelinghuysen family to serve in Congress, starting with his great-great-great-grandfather, who joined the U.S. Senate in 1793. The family’s political lineage is something that Peter Frelinghuysen’s son, U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, said his father rarely bragged about as a dedicated public servant who never operated with a sense of entitlement. He described his father as a fiscally conservative but moderate on social issues, supporting legislation including the 1964 Civil Rights Act and federal funding for school construction.
Rodney Frelinghuysen said his father was especially proud of his work as the ranking Republican on the committee that produced the 1965 Higher Education Act. He also was passionate about leading a fight that began in 1959 with the entity then known as the Port of New York Authority to build an airport on a 10,000 acre parcel of Morris County wetlands. Frelinghuysen Jr. and supporters prevailed, helping block the project and turn it into the federally protected Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.
Peter Hood Ballantine Frelinghuysen Jr. was born in New York City on Jan. 17, 1916. He graduated from Princeton University in 1938, and served as an intelligence officer in the Navy during World War II, earning the rank of lieutenant. He also worked briefly as a lawyer and in the banking industry before being elected to Congress.
Rodney Frelinghuysen said his father was part of one of the first congressional delegations to visit China in the early 1970’s, after President Richard Nixon’s groundbreaking visit there to establish diplomatic channels.
He added that he was proud to learn his father, during his freshman term in Congress, had spoken out against the Communist-hunting tactics of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin, and urged fellow Republicans to speak out as well.
It was Frelinghuysen Jr.’s staff, and his office’s work helping constituents, that Rodney Frelinghuysen said made his father most proud of his long life in public service.
He is survived by his five children, 13 grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren.