Alene S. Ammond, 86, a New Jersey state senator representing Cherry Hill during the 1970s who famously challenged her Democratic Party colleagues in federal court when they ostracized her for speaking publicly about closed-door dealings, died Tuesday, June 4, of pneumonia at the University of Vermont Medical Center.
She was dubbed "the Terror of Trenton” after she was ousted in 1974 from the Senate Democratic Caucus for revealing to the press what her mostly male counterparts were saying secretly about state business.
Sen. Ammond fought back, and a federal judge made a determination that her constitutional right to free speech had been violated, as was the right of her constituents to equal protection under the law.
“It has been well established that she is not only a maverick, but also an outspoken critic of what goes on in the legislative halls of this state,” Judge Mitchell H. Cohen said in court at the time, the New York Times reported.
She lost her re-election bid when she was defeated in the Democratic primary by a party-backed opponent, who then lost in the general election to a Republican.
Sen. Ammond, who most recently lived in Voorhees, later ran for office several times but never succeeded. Still, she remained a vocal advocate on a variety of issues at the state and local level.
“Alene Ammond spent most of her life trying to help the community,” said former Cherry Hill Mayor Bernie Platt, who called her two campaigns against him “a good rivalry.”
Sen. Ammond was born in Jackson Heights, Queens. She was a semiprofessional ballet dancer in New York while attending college, her family said. She met her future husband, Harold J. Ammond, who was working in the city after graduating from Cornell University, on a blind date. They married in 1957.
The couple eventually moved to Cherry Hill, where Sen. Ammond became a newspaper reporter. She later became active in public policy and co-founded with Rose Marie Hospodor an advocacy group called the Cherry Hill League.
She was elected in 1973 to the state Senate. After her term in office, she continued to be vocal on issues such as taxes and government spending, the environment, and animal rights.
In a statement, her family asked that her memory be honored through civic activism. “In lieu of flowers, as opportunities arise: Find and embrace your own voice in your community and stand up to injustice,” her family said.
“Speak up at town meetings, voice your opinion at a school board gathering, write your views in a letter to the editor, talk to friends, family, and neighbors about community concerns, fight machine politics, and lastly and quite importantly: Vote.”
In addition to her husband, Sen. Ammond is survived by daughters Cynthia Shuman and Karen Langevin; five grandchildren; and a brother.
Donations may be made to the National Shrine of St. John Neumann, 1019 N. Fifth St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19123.