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Harold Martin

Harold Martin, a Democrat from Cresskill who served one term as a Bergen County freeholder and three terms in the state Assembly, died Tuesday. He was 92.

Mr. Martin, who worked at various times as a stockbroker, an electronic manufacturer's sales representative and a research economist, used a seat on the Cresskill Planning Board and frequent attendance at Cresskill council meetings as a springboard to higher office. He was elected to the Board of Freeholders in 1964, a good year in an otherwise dismal decade for Democrats.

He was defeated for reelection in 1967. Six years later, the name recognition helped him win election to the Assembly in the 39th District. Already retired from his business career, he touted himself as "your full-time Democratic assemblyman."

A staunch supporter of Democratic Gov. Brendan T. Byrne, Mr. Martin backed the state income tax Byrne signed into law. Mr. Martin, a member of the Appropriations and Education committees, saw the state income tax as a more equitable way of funding public education.

"He not only supported [the state income tax], he believed in it," Byrne said in a telephone interview.

"What mattered to Harold was doing the right thing for New Jersey," the former governor added. "You could count on him being on the right side of an issue, whether it was transportation or taxation or the environment. He was a good supporter of the Pinelands. & Just a lovely guy."

Mr. Martin saw education as a key issue. He headed a joint Senate and Assembly committee on the public schools during the drafting of legislation that resulted in the state income tax, and also sponsored a measure that increased the size of state-guaranteed loans available to graduate students.

Mr. Martin was ribbed for one of his legislative efforts — a bill that sought to designate willemite as the official state mineral and Palisades diabase as the state rock. "This bill gives an identity to New Jersey," he said in 1978, bristling at the suggestion that lawmakers should have better things to worry about. To this day, New Jersey has neither an official state mineral nor rock.

Mr. Martin was born in West New York and grew up in Brooklyn, where his family ran a menswear store. He graduated from New Utrecht High School and studied political science and economics at Rutgers University, from which he received bachelor's and master's degrees. "He majored in political science because he cared about it, and eventually had the opportunity to put it to use," said his wife, Reba. "Up until his last minute, he was intellectually involved in politics."

Mr. Martin, a 51-year resident of Cresskill, was an emeritus member of the Rutgers Board of Overseers, which governs the university's foundation.

In addition to his wife of 54 years, he is survived by his children, Gary Martin of Assonet, Mass., Terry Zingman of Rye Brook, N.Y., Susan Skalla of Sparta, and Peter Martin of Wyckoff; a brother, a sister and eight grandchildren. Private services will be under the direction of Gutterman and Musicant Jewish Funeral Directors, Hackensack.Story 'bhobmartin1021' fetched from queue '\Production\CopyDesk\TR_Done' on 10/20/2010 9:23:01 PM

Published in The Record on Oct. 21, 2010
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