Thursday, February 2, 2017

Born Today February 2: William J. Gaynor


Judge and New York City Mayor William Jay Gaynor was born on this date in Oriskany, New York into a devoutly Catholic Irish family on a farmstead.  He grew up there with his brother and his parents.  From an early age, he developed a keen fascination with the natural world, reportedly spent hours roaming the countryside attempting to understand and figure how various things worked the way that they did.  This curiosity lead him to be an excellent student from the very start of his education.  His parents pushed him toward a vocation in church, but while studying toward this goal, he became intensely interested in Stoic philosophy.  This lead him to lose his faith in the Christian religion all-together and as a result he left religious studies to move back in with his family in Utica, where they had since relocated.  His father then managed to procure for him a position with a local law firm, with the goal of him actually taking the bar exam and becoming a full fledged practicing lawyer.  It, instead, lead to a interest and career in politics.  Gaynor was first a judge on the New York Supreme court, before becoming Mayor of New York.  Amongst a lot of other things Gaynor did as mayor, one big move was to remove any lasting opposition to the finishing of the New York subway system.  He also, to the chagrin of the city coffers, removed tolls on the Williamsburg Bridge.  To read more about his life and his politics, follow links below.  For the purposes of film, all the shorts he appeared in (many of them in Pathe's Weekly's) were in newsreels in the capacity of mayor, save one--the very first one.  He appeared in 1909 in Vitagraph's Judge Gaynor and Hon. John McCooey.  In all, he was in 12 known newsreels between 1909 and 1913, the year of his death.  Very early in his term as mayor, Gaynor survived an assassination attempt by a disgruntled ex-city employee.  He was struck in the neck and the bullet was never removed.  He died on board the RMS Baltic on his way to Europe on September 10, 1913.  Doctors determined that he most likely died of a massive heart attack while lounging in a deck chair.  It was also determined that his old wound likely played no role in his passing.  His remains were returned to the U.S., where he was buried in Brooklyn's famed Green-Wood Cemetery (family burial located in Section 7, Lot 7051).  As a matter of film and television related trivia, one of his granddaughters Jean "Foxy" Rennard was actor Fred Gwynne's (Herman of "Munsters" fame) first wife; together they had 5 children.  

The is the marker for the entire Gaynor family in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn New York.

Leave Virtual Flowers @ Find A Grave

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