Newark's 1945 "V-E Day" City Commission Election

by Nat Bodian


Tuesday, May 8, 1945, saw one of the wildest street demonstrations in downtown Newark history, as President Harry Truman, in a 9 AM broadcast, announced the end of World War II in Europe.

On that same day of unbridled joy and excitement, as mandated by State law, elections took place in Newark between the hours of 7 AM and 8 PM to elect five Newark city commissioners from a field of 22 candidates.

The fifteen vote tabulators were locked in the County Clerk's office after the polls closed at 8 PM, and remained there until the sealed ballot boxes were opened.

The Five Election Winners

The five winners in the V-E Day election, and their vote tallies, were: Mayor Vincent J. Murphy, 59,959 - John A. Brady, 52,188 - Ralph A. Villani, 45,737 - John B. Keenan, 42,981 - and Meyer C. Ellenstein, 42,399.

All of those elected, with the exception of Ellenstein, were incumbents running for re-election. Ellenstein was returned to the City Commission, after having been defeated in the previous 1941 city commission election.

Ellenstein had earlier been Mayor of Newark for two four-year terms, from 1933 to 1941. Following his election in 1945, he was awarded the position of "Commissioner of Public Works."

Mayor Vincent J. Murphy, as the top vote-getter, retained his position as Mayor of Newark for a second term.

In the field of 22 candidates, the five winners racked up a combined total of 243,364 votes, a record.

This high tally was in sharp contrast with the City Commission vote in 1941 of 132,483.

The Losing Candidates

The losing candidates in the field of 22 were: Neil J. Convery - Anthony Giuliano - Samuel Klein - Frank S. Platta - Reginald Parnell - Harry A. Pine - Thomas E. Durkin - Edward Fenina - Edward J. Ward - Harry Grumbach - Peter T. Kerns - Charles Puro - Dr. Andrew V. Morin - Eugene J. O'Mara - Theodore S. Miller Jr. - John Sheps - and Leo Carlin.

A Losing Candidate Stand-Out

Among the losing-candidate stand-outs was Leo P. Carlin. In the future 1953 City Commission election, Carlin would lead a field of 26 candidates to become Newark's last mayor under the City Commission form of government. He was chosen mayor unanimously by fellow commissioners.

In a future Newark referendum in 1954, Newark's city commission form of government was changed to a new system, and in 1958, Carlin would become Newark's first mayor 'elected' directly to the office of mayor since 1915.

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Some 1945 V-E Day Election Highlights

  • Newark Police Chief Sebold assigned 250 policemen to the various poling places during the hours that the voting poles were open.

  • All bars in Newark were closed during the voting hours.

  • Voting was moderate from 7 AM until the President's 9 AM broadcast announcing that the war in Europe had ended.

  • As celebrating street crowds, estimated at 25,000, gathered on Broad Street, between the Four Corners and the National Newark Building opposite the Prudential, office workers threw confetti from office windows of Newark's tallest building. Much of that confetti was torn election-campaign literature.

  • Voting activity tapered during the President's broadcast, and then mushroomed as store workers and war plant workers were dismissed for the day and flocked to the polls.

  • As heavy rain began to fall at noon, voting slowed and was virtually at the same noon voting level as in the preceding 1941 city commission election. It would later rise to record proportions.

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