Officials unveiled an 8-foot bronze statue of Newark’s first Black mayor, Kenneth A. Gibson on September 23rd. Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka, U.S. Rep. Donald M. Payne Jr., and N.J. Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver joined members of Gibson’s family for the unveiling. Mayor Gibson served for 16 years from 1970 to 1986. He passed away in 2019 at age 86. Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr. commissioned the gleaming bronze, funded by Essex County, Prudential, and the Newark Community Impact Fund. Mississippi native Thomas Jay Warren sculpted the statue.
“Mayor Gibson was so special. Growing up, I knew of him as an icon and a topic of conversation in my household. I knew why he was important for the city and throughout the country,” Baraka said. “When I became mayor, he graced me with opportunities to have conversations with him, not always about politics but also about well-being. He’s helped me make my way through my mayorship in the City of Newark and more than anything he deserves a statue right here in front of City Hall.”
Gibson’s wife, Camille, and his daughter, Cheryl, attended the unveiling along with other family members. “We know that he loved this city, and we believe that this is exactly where he should be remembered,” Cheryl said. “This is befitting of him, and we will never forget what Mayor Baraka, County Executive DiVincenzo, and the entire City Council have done to memorialize my father. We’re humbled by this experience.”
Born in Alabama in 1932, Gibson grew up in Newark and graduated from Central High School. He studied civil engineering at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and worked as an engineer for the New Jersey Highway Department and the Newark Housing Authority prior to becoming mayor.