David Baird, Jr.

David Baird, Jr. Congressional Photo

David Baird Jr. was born in Camden NJ on October 18, 1881. His father, David Baird Sr., was one of Camden’s leading citizens for well over 50 years, an important man both in the business and political life of Camden, Camden County, and South Jersey.

David Baird Jr. attended the Raymond Academy at Camden and Penn Charter School in Philadelphia PA, after which he graduated from Lawrenceville NJ School in 1899 and from Princeton University in 1903.

After graduation from Princeton, David Baird Jr. returned to Camden, and went into his father’s lumber business, the David Baird Company. By 1916 he had joined his father on the Board of Directors of the First National Bank of Camden. He later took his father’s place as a dominant figure in Republican party politics in Camden City and Camden County.

David Baird Jr. was a founding member of the Tavistock Country Club, and was involved in the behind the scenes tactics that led to the incorporation of Tavistock as an independent borough, despite its population of less than 20 people.

In 1924 he purchased an interest in the Camden Post-Telegram from then Congressman Francis Ford Patterson Jr. The rival Camden Courier had been running stories highly critical of the elder Baird and the Republican party, and which had contributed to the defeat of acting Mayor Frank S. Van Hart by 800 votes in 1923. David Baird Jr. was unable to maintain the fortunes of the Post-Telegram, and his father brokered a deal selling the paper to Courier owner David Stern in January of 1926. The Courier remained highly critical of Baird Jr. throughout the 1930s and 1940s, and this criticism certainly contributed but was in no way solely responsible for his political decline during those years.

In 1929 David Baird Jr. was appointed as a Republican to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Walter E. Edge, and served from November 30, 1929, to December 2, 1930, when a duly elected successor qualified. He was not a candidate for election to the vacancy in 1930. At the height of his political fortunes, Baird Jr. returned to New Jersey, and ran unsuccessfully for Governor of New Jersey in 1931. After his defeat in the general election, he resumed his former business pursuits. Still the dominant force in local and county Republican party politics, he engaged in a bitter intra-party battle with Albert S. Woodruff throughout the 1930s. While his slate, co-headed by political ally Florence Baker, defeated that led by Woodruff and Elizabeth Verga in the May 1934 election, the deep divisions within the party contributed to rise of the Democratic machine headed by George Brunner that would dominate Camden after 1935.

David Baird Jr. moved out of Camden to a farm that he owned in a rural part of Delaware Township in October of 1936. His father had acquired the home at 804 Cooper Street in the 1890s, the mansion built by real estate developer Edward N. Cohn in the late 1880s.

Even though David Baird Jr. had to deal with problems with his own county organization, he still commanded considerable support. He was appointed by the Governor to the Delaware River Joint Commission (the forerunner of the Delaware River Port Authority) to fill an unexpired term in 1938. David Baird Jr. acquired an interest in the Smith-Austermuhl Insurance Company, and by 1947 was the president of that enterprise. On June 7, 1950 he announced the closing of the David Baird Company lumber business that his father had founded in the 1870s. The Baird family remained in lumber for many years, operating the Haddonfield Lumber Company. David Baird Jr. died in Camden NJ on February 28, 1955, and was interred in the family mausoleum at Harleigh Cemetery in Camden NJ.

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