TRENTON – Senator Joseph Coniglio, D-Bergen, released the following statement today regarding the signing of legislation he sponsored with Senator Ronald L. Rice, D-Essex, honoring New Jersey’s first black legislators, Assemblyman Walter Gilbert Alexander, R-Orange, and Senator Hutchins F. Inge, D-Newark:
“Assemblyman Alexander and Senator Inge are true pioneers, having broken the color barrier and blazed a trail for so many African-American lawmakers who have come since. These men overcame the racism of their respective times and were elected because people were counting on them to make a difference for their districts and for the constituents they represented.
“Their legacy to this State goes far behind the terms they served, or the laws they shepherded through the process, to the very core of equality for all people, regardless of skin color. It is only fitting that we recognize their remarkable achievements on behalf of African-Americans in New Jersey in the place where they made history – the New Jersey Statehouse.”
The Senators’ bill, S-2482, provides for the display of two plaques in the State House, to honor Assemblyman Alexander and Senator Inge.
Assemblyman Alexander, a physician, was elected to the General Assembly in 1920 and went on to serve two legislative terms. The son of former slaves, he earned his bachelor’s degree from Lincoln University in 1899, and in 1903 he earned a medical degree from Boston College of Physicians and Surgeons. Assemblyman Alexander died in 1953 at the age of 73.
Senator Inge, also a physician, served in the legislature from 1966 to 1968, and was chairman of the Senate Federal and Interstate Relations Committee. A graduate of both the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy and of the Howard University School of Medicine, Senator Inge served on the staff of United Presbyterian Hospital in Newark. Senator Inge passed away in 2002, at the age of 101.
The bill was unanimously approved by the full Senate on February 5.