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Former legislator Ewing is dead at 93
Star Ledger 6-25-12 Former legislator Ewing is dead at 93...Longtime Republican state legislator John "Jack" H. Ewing Sr… chairman of the state Senate's education committee in the 1990s, died May 31 in Northfield, Vt.

The Star-Ledger Archive
COPYRIGHT © The Star-Ledger 2012

Date: 2012/06/25

Star Ledger - Former legislator Ewing is dead at 93 …Longtime Republican state legislator John "Jack" H. Ewing Sr… chairman of the state Senate's education committee in the 1990s, died May 31 in Northfield, Vt.


By Richard Khavkine


Longtime Republican state legislator John "Jack" H. Ewing Sr., who successfully pushed for legislation that helped create charter schools in New Jersey and stirred enmity when he advocated for state takeovers of failing school districts while chairman of the state Senate's education committee in the 1990s, died May 31 in Northfield, Vt.


He was 93.


The state legislature was notified of his death last week.


Ewing represented Somerset County's 16th District in the state Legislature for 30 years, first as an assemblyman from 1968 to 1977 and then as a senator until 1998.


As education committee chairman, Ewing wielded enormous influence and helped push for takeovers of Newark's school district, saying it was not the state's responsibility to help fund poorer districts.


Not surprisingly, his approach was divisive. But he did not shy away from the controversies he provoked, and both backers and detractors praised Ewing's disposition to sit down and talk.


"He was always willing to listen to you whether he agreed with you or not," said Lynne Strickland, the executive director of the Garden State Coalition of Schools. "He was a standout in that he always called you back."


Ewing was something of a contradiction, those who knew him said, but never for lack of fervor.


"He could be critical to the point of discomfort about urban schools. At the same time, he would go there and tour," Strickland said. "And he had real passion for education for kids in prisons.


"He did care about children and kids in need."

That was a big part of his charm, they said.


"He was probably the most generous person I knew, but he could be as cantankerous as anybody I knew," said Dale Florio, chairman of the Somerset County Republican Organization from 1992 to 2010. "He was a mix of unpredictability, but that's what people love about him."

His legislative legacy, particularly with regard to education issues, were all a product of his dedication, Florio said.


"For Jack, it was always what would most benefit the kids. He really cared," he said.


State Sen. Senator Joseph Kyrillos Jr. (R-Monmouth), was 41 years Ewing's junior and served with him for six years, including on the education committee.


He said Ewing had a passionate commitment to his ideals.

"He was a larger-than-life figure in many ways," Kyrillos said. "Jack was a very impressive and elegant man who was a force for good and for the state.


"He leaves behind a lot of accomplishments."


Had Ewing continued in the Senate, his colleague said, he would have been in the vanguard of the schools reform effort.


"He was always at the cutting edge of school challenges," Kyrillos said.


Ewing is survived by his wife, Alison Pyne Ewing; his children, Maude E. Nielsen, John H. Ewing Jr. and his wife, Margaret, and Alison P. Wagner; his grandchildren, Alison A. Bodhani, Seth B. Nielsen, Ezra L. Nielsen, and Sophia H. Ewing; and his great-grandson, Jay K. Strauss.


Ewing, who saw combat as an airborne infantry officer in the Pacific Theater during World War II, rose to first lieutenant in the Army and earned a Bronze Star.


He began his political career in 1966 as a Somerset freeholder, having retired as a president of Abercrombie & Fitch.


After his retirement from elected office, Ewing taught political science courses at Centenary College in Hackettstown from 1999 to 2004.

Ewing was feisty and even edgy, Strickland said, but he was also "a gentleman and a spark plug."


Richard Khavkine: (973) 392-1851 or rkhavkine@starledger.com


PHOTO CAPTION: 1997 Star-Ledger File Photo Former state senators Jack Ewing, (R-Somerset), left, and Robert Littell, (R-Sussex) confer during a meeting. Ewing, who was an education advocate in the state and helped push to create charter schools, died May 31 at age 93.


URL: <a href="/texis/search/story.html?table=sl2012&id=4fe80c7d94">Former legislator Ewing is dead at 93</a>


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