1963: Ralph Hudson, the last man executed in New Jersey

On this date in 1963, Ralph Hudson was electrocuted in New Jersey for stabbing to death his estranged wife.

It was to be the last execution in New Jersey.

No prisoner has been put to death in the Garden State these past 45 years. And last month, New Jersey became the first state to abolish the death penalty legislatively since Iowa and West Virginia did so in 1965.

Whether the move will be a sign of things to come remains to be seen.

In 2005 — the death penalty’s future has been debated in New Jersey for some time — the former governor’s stepson remembered the toll this day’s event exacted from its participants.

In 1963, the year in which New Jersey last employed the death penalty, I was an adolescent. My late stepfather, Governor Richard J. Hughes, found himself in the position of Chief Executive with the power to end or continue the life of a fellow human being. Years later he told me how tortuous it was to be thrust into that role.

The last execution in New Jersey, of Ralph Hudson in 1963 for the murder of his wife Myrtle, was carried out during my father’s administration. The painful decision to allow Hudson’s execution to go forward profoundly impacted him.

Time has shed light on the impact of the Hudson execution that cold January day in 1963. Hudson’s attorney never accepted another death penalty case. Seeing his client go to the execution chamber had exacted too great an emotional toll. Many years later Hudson’s executioner, Dow P. Hover, borrowed from New York, was discovered dead in his Plymouth, the engine running and the window open – in a closed garage.

On this day..