William Newell witnessed a shipwreck off the coast while living in Manahawkin, where he had a medical practice in 1839. The disaster inspired him to devise rescue methods, including a lifeline propelled by a mortarball, which would later save hundreds of lives. His tireless work to obtain federal funding to establish a lifesaving service along the New Jersey coast earned him political recognition. New Jersey residents elected Newell to two terms in the U.S. Congress as a Whig beginning in 1847, and he roomed with fellow first-year congressman Abraham Lincoln. In 1856, New Jersey voters elected him as the state’s 25th governor. His good friend, (by then) President Lincoln, appointed Newell as White House physician. This led to efforts that eventually resulted in the Life-Saving Service, which later evolved with other federal agencies into the U.S. Coast Guard. In 1880, President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed Newell governor and Indian Inspector of Washington Territory. He returned to New Jersey in 1889, then served as a trustee of Rutgers College and practiced medicine in Allentown until his death in 1901.