New TV Series Spotlights Late NJ Legends

"Remember Them" celebrates local icons like Frank Sinatra, James Gandolfini and Whitney Houston, who changed the face of the Garden State.

James Gandolfini in a scene of "The Sopranos"
The show Remember Them profiles the legacies of famous New Jerseyans, including the late Sopranos star James Gandolfini. Photo courtesy of HBO/Photofest

Frank Sinatra, Woodrow Wilson, Whitney Houston, Norman Schwarzkopf—have you ever noticed that so many interesting and prominent personalities have some connection to New Jersey? 

We get a bad rap for so many things, including some of the worst reality TV out there—be it at the Jersey Shore or with so-called Housewives. But what about the innovative, creative people who come from the Garden State, like inventor Thomas Edison, Congresswoman Millicent Fenwick and, of course, Sopranos star James Gandolfini?

As a longtime broadcaster based in New Jersey, I’ve often thought it would be great to produce a series that features the best of our state—those who are gone but should never be forgotten.

That is just what Jacqui Tricarico and I have done with our new series, Remember Them. Produced by Caucus Educational Corporation in cooperation with the New Jersey Hall of Fame and the New Jersey Historical Commission, Remember Them is broadcast on NJ PBS, WNET and News 12+, and is available on my website.

Why did Frank Sinatra, born in Hoboken, abandon New Jersey and the Atlantic City casinos in 1984 over a controversial incident at the Golden Nugget? How did James Gandolfini, raised in Bergen County and a Rutgers alum, go from managing bars and restaurants to becoming one of the most iconic actors of our time? How the heck did Woodrow Wilson become president of the United States, and why was his name stripped from Princeton, where he had previously served as president? The only other New Jerseyan to become U.S. president was Grover Cleveland from Caldwell. 

The series also features Whitney Houston, whose New Jersey roots were deeply planted in East Orange. Remember Them shares her tragic story and how New Jersey played a powerful role in shaping her as an extraordinary performer. 

Remember Them looks at iconic Congresswoman Millicent Fenwick, who was a progressive Republican and voted to impeach Republican President Richard Nixon in 1973. Speaking of Nixon, the series looks at Congressman Peter Rodino from Newark, who led the Watergate impeachment proceedings that ultimately led to Nixon’s resignation. 

Newark Mayor Ken Gibson, the first black mayor of a major American city on the East coast, is also profiled, along with Amiri Baraka, the poet, playwright and activist who is the father of current Newark Mayor Ras Baraka. Gibson and Baraka were two Black leaders from New Jersey with very different political styles who had a huge impact on New Jersey and the nation.

Thomas Edison and the light bulb—everyone knows it, right? But what went on in Edison’s Menlo Park laboratory, where he also invented the phonograph? And why is the museum in West Orange so important today? 

And consider the income tax. Remember Them reminds us that it was New Jersey Governor Brendan Byrne who proposed and fought for the state income tax in 1976 as an effort to more equitably fund our public schools.

Simply put, we must remember them because they help us understand where we are today and how we got here.  

Steve Adubato, PhD, is the author of five books including his latest, Lessons in Leadership. He is also an Emmy® Award–winning anchor on Thirteen/WNET (PBS) and NJ PBS. Check out Steve has appeared on CNN, FOX5 in NY and NBC’s Today Show, and his “Lessons in Leadership” video podcast with co-host Mary Gamba airs Sundays at 10 am on News 12+. Steve also provides executive leadership coaching and seminars for a variety of corporations and organizations both regionally and nationally. For more information, visit

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