Hendrickson, Robert C. (Robert Clymer), 1898-1964

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1898-08-12
Death 1964-12-07

Biographical notes:

Robert Clymer Hendrickson was an American lawyer and U.S. Senator from New Jersey. He also served on the New Jersey Constitutional Revision Commission and, as a senior legal officer in the U.S. Army in North Africa, Italy and Austria, worked on the re-establishment of civil rights and local courts, the implementation of de-nazification programs and the care of displaced persons.

Born on August 12, 1898, the son of Daniel and Emma (Megary) Hendrickson, he attended high school in Woodbury, New Jersey. After graduating, he enlisted in the United States Army, serving as an ambulance driver in World War I and receiving unit citations and the Medal of Verdun for service in the Meuse-Argonne, St. Mihiel and Aisne-Marne offensives. Following the war he obtained a law degree from Temple University, was admitted to the New Jersey bar in 1922 and began his career as lawyer, legislator and diplomat.

During the 1920s and 1930s Hendrickson was corresponding attorney and a director of the Suburban Homes Building and Loan Association of Woodbury. In 1928 he founded Hendrickson and Company, a real estate insurance firm. As a specialist in municipal and public law, he entered a long partnership with John B. Wick, also of Woodbury, and together they acted as municipal attorneys for cities and towns in Gloucester, Sussex, Cumberland and Hudson counties for more than thirty years.

Hendrickson entered politics in 1934 when he was appointed to fill the unexpired term of a New Jersey state senator. He campaigned successfully for the same office in 1939 and 1941, gaining prominence as Republican Majority Leader and President of the Senate. Between 1938 and 1943 he represented New Jersey on the Council of State Governments, of which he was elected chairman in 1941. He was also an original member of the New Jersey Constitutional Revision Commission.

As the Republican nominee, Hendrickson was unsuccessful in his campaign for the governorship in 1940, but won re-election to the New Jersey Senate in the following year. A joint session of the legislature elected him State Treasurer in 1942 and again in 1946.

In 1943 Hendrickson asked for a leave of absence to join the armed forces. As a senior legal officer he followed allied armies through North Africa, Italy and Austria. Among his duties were the re-establishment of civil rights and local courts, the implementation of de-nazification programs and the care of displaced persons. He left the Army as lieutenant-colonel early in 1946, having been awarded the European-African-Middle East Theatre Service Medal with four bronze stars, the Army Commendation Ribbon and the Allied Government Medal.

Hendrickson returned to state politics and remained in New Jersey until 1948 when he was elected to the United States Senate. His most active committee work was performed in the Judiciary Committee and the Committee on Rules and Administration. A determined anti-Communist, Hendrickson nevertheless was among the first congressmen to oppose the conduct of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin. Though a defender of American free enterprise, Senator Hendrickson voted for rent controls, federal aid to education, restricted use of injunctions against labor unions, an end to segregation in public housing, Point Four and extensions of the Marshall Plan. Youth in Danger (1955), Hendrickson's book which grew out of his chairmanship of the Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency, traced the roots of crime to "slums of incredible squalor" and the "derelictions of our older generation."

Hendrickson did not seek re-election to the United States Senate, claiming that he had lost party support in his home state by concentrating on his work in Washington. In 1955 President Eisenhower appointed him Ambassador to New Zealand. After directing the American embassy in Wellington for two years, Hendrickson returned to his law practice in Woodbury, New Jersey.

Robert Hendrickson married Olga Bonsal in 1919; they had four daughters and a son. Hendrickson was a vestryman of Christ Episcopal Church, Woodbury; treasurer of the Gloucester County Bar Association; and a charter member of the William Stokes Bonsal Post of the American Legion. He died on December 7, 1964.

From the guide to the Robert C. Hendrickson Papers, 1916-1964, 1938-1958, (Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries)

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Subjects:

  • Denazification--North Africa
  • Military history
  • Republican party (N.J.)
  • Juvenile delinquency
  • Denazification--Italy
  • Denazification--Austria
  • Politics, government and public administration

Occupations:

  • Ambassadors
  • Legislators

Places:

  • New Jersey (as recorded)
  • New Jersey. Legislature. Senate. (as recorded)