Matt Murphy – A Gentle Giant
Niagara County lost a true legend on Wednesday, May 17, 2001 with the passing of former NYS Assemblyman Matthew J. Murphy, Jr. Those who knew him remember his as the big-hearted “gentle-giant” of local politics and a tireless advocate for anyone with a need.
Born in 1926 in Lockport, Murphy attended the Lockport Public Schools and graduated from Niagara University in 1951. In WWII, Matt served with the 7th Infantry Division of Field Artillery in Korea and Okinawa. Upon returning stateside, he worked for Goodyear Tire and Rubber and became the owner of its Lockport franchise. After 15 years as an independent businessman, he served as a vice-president at Reid Petroleum in Lockport.
Matt Murphy was first elected to the New York State Assembly in 1974 and served a total of nine two-year terms and rose to the position of Asst. Speaker Pro Tempore. As the first chairman of the Committee on Tourism, Matt guided the development of much of the state’s tourism infrastructure. Governor Hugh Carey credited Murphy as the “Father of I Love New York,” a fitting honor for the man who championed this highly successful tourism marketing campaign. During his tenure, Murphy helped establish the 400-mile Seaway Trail, was a driving force in developing recreational use of the Erie Barge Canal and won legislative approval for Artpark at Lewiston.
In humanitarian efforts, Murphy is remembered as a “big-smiling Irishman,” and a fighter for local causes. Recognizing something as basic as the need for food and shelter, Matt worked to establish the Lockport Community Soup Kitchen that has consistently touched thousands of people in the community. He was also a member of the Masons and received their DeWitt Clinton Award for Community Service, the highest honor bestowed by the organization. In addition, Matt was active with many other fraternal and charitable organizations. In his lifetime, he was proud to have received over a dozen “Man of the Year” awards from many organizations that aptly recognized Matt’s efforts to go out of his way to help others and make Niagara County a better place to live and work. Perhaps summed up best by a friend, “Matt was one of a kind!”
Douglas Farley, Director
Ann Marie Linnabery
Erie Canal Discover Center
24 Church St.
Lockport NY 14094