Calvin West, Trailblazing African-American Newark Politician, Dead At 87

Calvin West, the former Newark city council member and a fixture in city and statewide politics for decades, has died. He was 87 years old*, the New Jersey Globe reported Monday. 

Calvin West

Calvin West

Photo Credit: Screen grab

“We lost a great leader today with the passing of Calvin West. He mentored generations of young leaders, including myself, and was someone who I relied and depended on for advice, guidance and support. Calvin was always looking out for the Newark, the community he loved, and his friends. I am deeply saddened and will miss Calvin’s friendship and insight," Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo said in a statement released to the media Monday morning. 

A Newark native, he grew up in what was then the city's Third Ward and was a graduate of Newark public schools. While in high school, a group of five white men accosted him after a high school basketball game, using racist slurs, according to a bio on Riseup North Newark. It was a formative experience for the teenage West, the site reported. 

He attended Bloomfield College and Cooper Union in New York before serving in the military, earning an honorable discharge. 

West founded the Central Ward Young Democrats in the 1950s. In 1966, West became the first African-American to win citywide office in Newark when he was elected to an at-large city council seat. (In 1954, Irvine Turner became Newark's first black elected official when he won a seat on the council representing a city ward.)  

After serving on the Newark council, he worked as an aide to Mayor Sharpe James and did work for a succession of Democratic governors, including James McGreevey, Richard Codey and Jon Corzine, and was a prominent early supporter of current governor Phil Murphy. 

A journalist who worked for the Newark Evening News and the New Jersey Afro-American, West held a number of government posts, including as an auditor for the state Division of Local Government Services and on the Alcoholic Beverage Commission. 

Information on arrangements was not immediately available. 

*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article said he was 86. 

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