METUCHEN — A revered member of the community, the late Martin Spritzer, a former Metuchen borough attorney, was committed to the cause of civil rights early in his legal career.
His advocacy now rightly continues through a contribution to the Metuchen Public Library from the Martin Spritzer Fund, which is building a collection of more than 120 books and two dozen DVDs devoted to civil rights and America’s historic struggles against racism.
The collection, which will continue to expand, provides appropriate civil rights-focused content spanning the past and present in the genres of nonfiction, biography, and fiction for children, young adults, and adults.
The contribution was celebrated with Spritzer’s memory at a dedication ceremony at the Metuchen Public Library on Saturday.
To commemorate the occasion, Senator Patrick Diegnan, Assemblymen Robert Karabinchak and Sterley Stanley honored Spritzer with a joint Senate and General Assembly legislative resolution.
Diegnan presented a framed copy of the resolution to Spritzer’s son, Evan, who attended the event in person, and his daughter, Dinah, who participated virtually.
“Martin has been described as a true icon in Metuchen, so it seems fitting that his legacy be allowed to live on at the borough public library he loved,” Diegnan said. “A community advocate and mentor to many, Martin has had a profound impact on Metuchen and beyond. This donation allows his dedication to the cause of civil rights to reach others in an appropriate place where visitors come to learn and grow.
Chairman of more than 10 organizations, including the Metuchen-Edison Race Relations Council and the Middlesex County Human Relations Commission, Spritzer served as a borough attorney for 16 years. He was instrumental in the creation of the Metuchen Community Pool, the expansion of the Metuchen YMCA and the development of Main Street.
A graduate of Highland Park High School (1945), Spritzer was also an alumnus of Rutgers University (1948) and Harvard Law School (1951). After settling in Metuchen, Spritzer practiced law in the borough and neighboring Edison for 42 years.
NAACP Metuchen-Edison branch president Reginald Johnson said the Ivy League-educated Spritzer “sacrificed a more lucrative career to serve the underdog,” noting Spritzer was key to improving race relations and uniting the community.
Mayor Jonathan Busch said Spritzer was a dedicated activist who played a significant role in bringing Metuchen into the civil rights era. He called Spritzer “a steady hand during the 60s and 70s, a time of great change in Metuchen”.
Borough Council Chairman Jason Delia said Spritzer’s contributions to Metuchen have helped create “the inclusive and welcoming community that we are all a part of today.”
Attendees at Saturday’s event got a first look at the special collection made possible through the generosity of the Martin Spritzer Fund and learned about civil rights and human relations in Metuchen, then and now.
Spritzer defended the right to a minute’s silence at government meetings and was rightly honored with it at a borough council meeting days after his death.
Spritzer died in December 2019 at age 92 at Galloway Ridge, a retirement home in Fearrington Village, Pittsboro, North Carolina, where he remained active in Democratic politics. Spritzer served on the Chatham County Human Relations Commission and chaired the Fearrington Village Democratic Club.
Beyond community service, Spritzer’s greatest cause was family. In addition to raising two children, Spritzer and his wife, Lola, to whom he was married for 64 years, had four grandchildren.
“As a child, it seemed to me that my father’s main occupation was me,” said Evan Spritzer, noting that as a byproduct of growing up around influential borough leaders, such as former mayors Donald Wernik and John Wiley, “a certain moral energy became a big part of my upbringing.
The Martin Spritzer Fund’s mission statement, which is to “raise awareness of equity, civil rights, and anti-racism,” and a quote from Spritzer, which reads, “You must be fair to everyone,” is stamped inside each book in the library’s collection bearing his name.
Metuchen Public Library director Hsi Hsi Chung said the contribution from the Martin Spritzer Fund “will enhance our collection to educate and inform the community about important social issues.”
An Internet page on the library’s website is devoted to the books and DVDs that make up the Martin Spritzer collection. The webpage also contains a link to biographical information about Spritzer.
Spritzer’s countless contributions over 30 years have resulted in numerous accolades, including his appointment by Governor Thomas Kean in 1988 to the statewide Martin Luther King Memorial Commission.
“In many ways,” said Wiley, who was among a dozen speakers at Saturday’s ceremony, “this community owes a lot to Martin.”