TRENTON – Senator Ronald L. Rice, D-Essex, released the following statement today regarding the signing of legislation he sponsored with Senator Joseph Coniglio, D-Bergen, honoring New Jersey’s first black legislators, Assemblyman Walter Gilbert Alexander, R-Orange, and Senator Hutchins F. Inge, D-Newark:
“Today is a proud day for me and for the rest of my colleagues in the legislature. When I arrived in Trenton in 1986, there was only one African-American out of the 40 members of the Senate, the Honorable Wynona M. Lipman, D-Essex.
“Assemblyman Alexander and Senator Inge made history by overcoming the racism of the 1920’s and the 1960’s to win election to the State legislature, and it is only fitting that we honor their accomplishments.
“Coincidentally, Senator Inge was the first black man to sit in the State Senate, and he represented the same area of Newark that I do now, as the second black man elected to the Senate. I came behind a great man in Senator Inge, and I’m proud to say that the Alexander family is from Orange, which is in my district.
“As the Chairman of the New Jersey Legislative Black Caucus, I will make sure that we as a Caucus ultimately identify all of the African-Americans who sat in the legislature, from the beginning to the present and we will create a document to chronicle black history in the legislature.”
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.