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James, Sharpe

Sharpe James

1936—

Politician, educator

Sharpe James was the mayor of Newark, New Jersey, from 1986 to 2006. During his tenure Newark was recognized with the U.S. Conference of Mayors' Most Livable City Award, the National Civic League's All-America City Award, and the Environmental Protection Agency's Administrator's Award—a collection of honors that James called the "triple crown." However, James's 2002 re-election campaign drew national attention, both for the mayor's hard-nosed political tactics and because of racially charged comments James made about his opponent, the African-American city councilman Cory Booker. James was also criticized for his flamboyant lifestyle, and corruption claims dogged his administration. After he chose not to run for re-election in 2006, James became the target of a federal fraud investigation; he and a woman alleged to be his mistress were convicted of fraud and conspiracy charges in 2008.

The felony convictions detract from a legacy in office that many say brought Newark back from the brink of disintegration. As Newark's mayor, James worked to revitalize the city's central business district, persuaded businesses to relocate there, fought to reduce the crime rate, and encouraged the construction of affordable housing. He pioneered the cheap sale of derelict properties to developers, arguing that profitless sales were better than abandoned buildings. In addition, he fought to bring high-profile public projects to Newark, such as the $250-million New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), and the professional sports arena, which was completed after he left office.

Began Career as a Teacher

Sharpe James was born on February 20, 1936, in Jacksonville, Florida. His unusual first name was his mother's maiden name. When Sharpe was still a baby, his father died, and his mother moved the family north to Newark. She worked in the restaurant business, and later became a nurse. James attended Newark's Miller Street Elementary School and South Side High School, where he was the star of the track team.

After graduating with honors in 1954, James enrolled at Montclair State College as an education major. He graduated with honors in 1958 and served in the U.S. Army in Germany for two years. During his service he received an expert infantry badge, the highest honor awarded in peacetime. In the Army, as in college, James was an 800-meter champion on the track team. He eventually made it to the finals of the U.S. Olympic trials in 1960.

Following his service James earned a master's degree in education from Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts. He also pursued advanced academic work at Columbia University, Rutgers University, Washington State University. From 1961 to 1962, James taught at Broadway Junior High School in Newark. The following year he took a position as a teacher and research assistant at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington. In 1963 he returned to Newark, where over the next five years he taught in four different public schools: Quitman Street Junior High, Clinton Place Junior High, Weequahic High, and West Side High. He also coached track and cross-country teams that won regional and state championships. During this time James met and married his wife, Mary Mattison.

In 1968 James joined the faculty at Essex County College as a professor of education in the department of behavioral sciences. During the eighteen years he spent at Essex County, he founded and directed the department of athletics, becoming the first African-American athletic director in the state college system. As chair of the department of physical education, recreation, and health, he was also the first African American to be a department chair in the New Jersey system. In addition, James served as acting chair of the education department and vice president of the Garden State Athletic Conference.

Elected to Newark City Council

Shortly after joining Essex County College, James entered politics. He was first elected to public office in 1970 as a council member representing Newark's South Ward. James held this position for twelve years, winning re-election in 1974 and again in 1978, when he ran unopposed—becoming the first elected official in the history of Newark's government to do so. In 1982 James was elected councilman-at-large, becoming the first person in the city's history to have been elected both as a ward councilman and as an at-large council member.

During his years on the city council, James built a reputation as a stubborn and opinionated lawmaker, unafraid of offending the other members. As Alfonso A. Narvaez wrote in the New York Times, "When the council voted new cars for council members, Mr. James said he would not accept his. When his colleagues pushed for a pay increase for themselves, he voted no."

During the mid-1980s James decided to run for mayor of Newark. He believed the city's inhabitants were dissatisfied with the administration of Kenneth A. Gibson, the city's first African-American mayor. "There was no hue and cry in the streets to keep Mayor Gibson in office, and I sensed that," James told Narvaez. Still, few thought James was capable of defeating Gibson, who was running for an unprecedented fifth term, and had a powerful political organization behind him.

At a Glance …

Born in Jacksonville, FL, on February 20, 1936; married Mary Mattison; children: John, Elliott, and Kevin. Military service: United States Army, 1958-60. Politics: Democratic Party. Education: Montclair State College, BS, education, 1958; Springfield State College, MS, education, 1961. Postgraduate work at Columbia University, Rutgers University, and Washington State University.

Career: Teacher, Broadway Junior High School, Newark, NJ, 1961-62; teacher and research assistant, Washington State University, 1962-63; teacher in New Jersey public school system, 1963-68; professor of education, Essex County College, 1968-86 (also served as director of athletics and chair of the department of physical education, recreation, and health); councilman, SouthWard, Newark City Council, 1970-82; Councilman-at-Large, 1982-86; Mayor of Newark, 1986-2006; Senator, State of New Jersey, 1999-2007.

Memberships: National League of Cities Board of Directors; New Jersey League of Municipalities Board of Directors; U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Awards: "Ten Best Dressed Men," Fashion Foundation of America, 1987; honorary doctorates from Montclair State College, 1988, and Drew University, 1991; Top 100 influential black Americans, Ebony, 1991, 1992, 2000, 2001; New Jersey State Tennis Association champion.

Before James could win over any voters, though, he had to win over his wife. "She does not like politics. She told me not to run and to remove myself from politics," James told the New York Times. At the same time, however, "She was upset at the decline of Newark, and my answer to her was that I would run and try to make a difference." His campaign slogan, "New- ark needs a Sharpe change," expressed his views perfectly.

Became Newark's Second Black Mayor

In May of 1986 James was elected Newark's thirty-fifth mayor. He became the first former city councilman, and the second African American, to be elected mayor in the city's history. "We had some good laughs recalling how people said it couldn't be done, that we didn't have a chance of upsetting the Gibson machine," campaign manager Willie Brown told the New York Times. James was sworn into office in July of that year—the first time in twenty-five years that he was not a full-time teacher.

James immediately launched a number of innovative plans to revitalize the city. One of his earliest ideas was to build a performing arts complex in downtown Newark that would play an essential role in revitalizing the city's nightlife. At the time, "it seemed almost laughable to suggest that the city should be the site of the state's premiere cultural center," Ronald Smothers wrote in the New York Times. It would take nearly ten years of planning and work before James was able to make his dream a reality.

As mayor, James became active in both state and national mayoral organizations. In 1987 he was elected to the board of directors of the New Jersey League of Municipalities. The following year he was elected to the board of directors of the National League of Cities. In 1989 James was elected to the U.S. Conference of Mayors Advisory Board. He also continued to be active in national Democratic politics, serving as state chairman for Jesse Jackson's presidential campaign. At the end of his first term, when James sought re-election, no one could be found to run against him. He had achieved yet another first, becoming the first mayor in the city's history to run unopposed.

In 1991 James was elected vice president of the New Jersey Conference of Mayors. That same year he was also elected to the board of trustees of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. In 1993 he was elected president of the National League of Cities, a position he held until 1994. That year James won a third term as mayor, defeating several opponents.

Soon after his election victory, the James administration was accused of corruption. "The former high school track star, politically surefooted for 20 years, is trying to outrun an intensifying federal probe into his fund-raising tactics and his free-spending lifestyle," John Moody wrote in Time in 1995. James charged that the investigation was politically and racially motivated, and that a white mayor would not be subject to such criticism. However, by 1997 his police director had been convicted and his chief of staff arrested on bribery charges. No charges were brought against James.

Elected New Jersey State Senator

James continued to rack up accomplishments in his third term in office—which he highlighted during his campaign for a fourth term. The crime rate had dropped by more than 25 percent from 1997 to 1998, more than 25,000 jobs had come to the city in 1997, and more than 3,000 housing units had been built or rehabilitated. In 1997 the 3,200-seat New Jersey Arts Center opened in downtown Newark. The multicultural programming at NJPAC, which was designed to attract all members of Newark's diverse population, resulted in a 25 percent share of ticket sales to minorities, "a number five times greater than normal for any other facility this large," according to Greg Sandow in the Wall Street Journal.

In June of 1999 James was elected state senator for the 29th district, replacing Wynona M. Lipman, who had died in office. "As 29th district senator, I will continue to fight for the issues that she so valiantly pursued," James said in a speech during his swearing-in ceremony. "I will be a voice for the voiceless; a champion for better cities, a better New Jersey, and an America of which all its people can be proud." The fact that James had not resigned as mayor of Newark was greeted with a barrage of media criticism. James acknowledged this in his speech: "Notwithstanding my exemplary experience, knowledge and accomplishments, as mayor of Newark and a former legislator for 16 years on the Newark Municipal Council, I have been vilified and criticized," he said. "I alone have been called greedy, selfish, and a double dipper."

Regardless of these claims, James was at the height of his powers. As a state senator, he had the unofficial authority to block government appointments in his area. His support was instrumental to the election of New Jersey democrats Jon Corzine and James McGreevey as U.S. senator in 2000 and governor in 2001, respectively. He made Ebony's list of most influential Black Americans four times, and was feted by the Fashion Foundation of America as one of the nation's "Ten Best Dressed Men" in 1987. He received honorary doctorates from Montclair State University and Drew University, and even captured senior tennis titles in Newark and statewide.

Won Bitter Mayoral Race in 2002

Although James was a prominent figure in New Jersey politics, and perhaps one of the most notable African-American politicians in the Northeast, he was not well known on a national level. His re-election bid for a fifth term as mayor of Newark changed that. Cory Booker, a thirty-two-year-old African-American lawyer, was his opponent in the 2002 election. Booker, an up-and- coming figure in the Democratic Party, was an Ivy League graduate and Rhodes scholar who had moved to Newark after growing up in the suburbs of Bergen County. Booker had made headlines prior to the election by setting up residence in the notorious Brick Towers housing project, in one of Newark's most dangerous neighborhoods.

James, reacting to the first credible threat to his position since he first became mayor, launched an all-out assault against Booker. He repeatedly pointed to Booker's outsider status, calling him a carpetbagger. This image was contrasted with the mayor's humble origins and decades of service in Newark with a slogan touting James as "The Real Deal." However, as the campaign wore on, James's attacks against Booker became more personal, and the rhetoric more heated. James claimed that Booker, a Democrat running in a nonpartisan election, was actually a Republican who accepted campaign donations from the Ku Klux Klan. During an emotional argument, James called Booker a "faggot white boy." He also alleged that Booker, a Baptist, was secretly Jewish. Among James's supporters, wild theories swarmed that Booker was an agent of white interests sent to wrest control of Newark from the black community.

For the rest of the nation, the 2002 election in Newark seemed a microcosm of the intergenerational conflict throughout black America, as leaders who rose to prominence following the civil rights struggles of the 1960s and '70s began to be displaced by a younger generation, led by politicians such as Booker, Harold Ford Jr., and Barack Obama. James's attacks against Booker repeatedly implied that the younger challenger, having reaped the benefits of the civil rights generation's struggles, was not "black enough" to lead a majority African-American city. "You have to learn to be an African American," James said at a campaign rally, addressing his remarks to Booker. "And we don't have time to train you."

Even though James went on to win his fifth term in office—the most of any Newark mayor—the victory cost him dearly. The election was hotly contested, and the candidates could barely appear in public to debate without it devolving into a shouting match, or scuffles erupting between their respective supporters. At various times Booker's phones were tapped, his campaign office was broken into, and his campaign advertising was torn down. Federal authorities were concerned enough about the possibility of fraud or violence on Election Day that the Justice Department sent observers to Newark to ensure a fair vote. Furor over the tone and conduct of the campaign was revived in 2005, with the release of a documentary made by a Booker supporter about the 2002 race. The film, aptly named Street Fight, portrayed James as a villain. Commenting on the Academy Award-nominated film on the PBS Web site, columnist Debra Dickerson wrote, "James is as arrogant, amoral and corrupt in his power, the power conferred on him by the blood of the [Civil Rights] Movement dead, as Jim Crow ever was."

The film's release anticipated a 2006 rematch between Booker, who announced almost immediately after losing the election that he would be back, and the incumbent, but it was not to be. James raised funds for re-election, but did not announce his candidacy or file the required paperwork until the last possible moment. Less than two weeks after placing himself on the ballot, James reconsidered, and decided not to seek re-election after all. Booker was easily able to overcome James's preferred candidate, Deputy Mayor Ronald Rice, in the election. Pro-Booker candidates also swept the municipal council contests, making the election a complete repudiation of James's administration.

After the end of his twenty-year tenure as mayor, James still retained his state senate seat, but facing a slate of challengers supported by Booker, he decided not to seek re-election in 2007. James's thirty-seven-year political career ended without his ever having been defeated in an election.

Convicted on Federal Fraud Charges

By the time James decided not to run for re-election in the state senate, he had already been notified that he was the target of a federal investigation of his actions while in office as mayor of Newark. In July of 2007 federal prosecutors obtained a thirty-three-count indictment against the former mayor. The indictment centered on two different sets of allegations. The first was that James had charged numerous personal expenses, including movie tickets, luxury car rentals, and vacation costs totaling more than $58,000 to a municipal credit card. The second set of allegations had to do with municipal land purchases made by a woman that prosecutors claimed was James's mistress. The woman, public relations consultant Tamika Riley, was alleged to have purchased various parcels from the city and subsequently resold them with little or no rehabilitation for an overall profit of more than $500,000.

The fraud case on the land deals went to trial first. During the trial James and Riley did not deny that they had had a relationship. Their defense argued that the relationship was over by the time that most of the property purchases were made, and that James did not exert any improper influence to get the sales approved. The jury, however, was not swayed by that argument, convicting James and Riley on all counts of fraud and conspiracy they faced. Although prosecutors asked for an enhanced sentence of more than thirteen years in prison for James based on the large profit Riley derived from the land sales and James's "history of corruption" in office. However, Judge William Martini disagreed with the prosecutors' arguments, and handed down a sentence of just twenty-seven months to the seventy- two-year-old former mayor. As of August of 2008 he had not been tried on the credit card charges.

Sources

Periodicals

New York Magazine, April 15, 2002.

New York Times, May 15, 1986; June 18, 1991; January 31, 1998, p. B1; May 12, 1998, p. B4; May 13, 1998, p. B5; April 28, 2002; May 11, 2002; April 11, 2007.

Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ), May 15, 2002; March 28, 2006; April 16, 2008; July 29, 2008; July 30, 2008.

Time, July 10, 1995.

Online

Dickerson, Debra, "Watching ‘Street Fight,’" P.O.V.—Street Fight (PBS), June 12, 2005, http://www.pbs.org/pov/pov2005/streetfight/special_watching_dd.html (accessed August 8, 2008).

Federal Bureau of Investigation—Newark Field Division, "Press Release," July 12, 2007, http://newark.fbi.gov/dojpressrel/2007/mayorindict071207.htm (accessed August 8, 2008).

Sandow, Greg, "Cultural Revolution," reprinted from the Wall Street Journal, July 28, 1998, http://www.gregsandow.com/njpac.htm (accessed August 8, 2008).

Other

Additional information for this profile was obtained from a biography of James provided by the Newark Public Information Office; the personal resume of Sharpe James; and James's speech from the swearing-in ceremony for state senate on June 21, 1999.

—Carrie Golus and Derek Jacques

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James, Sharpe 1936–

Sharpe James 1936

Mayor, state senator

Taught for 25 Years in Newark

Elected to Newarks City Council

Newarks Second Black Mayor

Elected New Jersey State Senator

Sources

Sharpe James is the 35th mayor of Newark, New Jerseys largest city. Originally elected mayor in 1986, James has gone on to win four successive terms. During his tenure, Newark has been recognized with the Most Livable City Award, the All-America City Award, and the Environmental Protection Agencys Administrators Awarda collection of honors that James calls the triple crown.

As Newarks mayor, James has struggled to revitalize the citys central business district, encouraged the construction of affordable housing, persuaded businesses to relocate there, and fought to reduce the crime rate. James is equally proud of his environmental record: the city has adopted laws that have encouraged recycling, while banning ozone-depleting chemicals and other environmental hazards. Most famously, James led the campaign for Newarks $250-million, 3, 200-seat New Jersey Performing Arts Center, which opened to rave reviews in 1997.

Alfonso A. Narvaez, writing in the New York Times, called James a man who knows what he wants and goes after it. Ronald Smothers, also writing in the New York Times, described James as one part cheerleader, one part real estate salesman and one part evangelist bending any ear he can to tell the good news of Newark. James accomplishments are even more remarkable because they were achieved in Newark, a city whose name is synonymous with urban ills, Greg Sandow wrote in the Wall Street Journal. In 1967, Newark was the scene of one of the nations worst race riots, which killed 26 people and left the city scarred by vacant lots and boarded-up buildings. Compounding the problem, the citys industrial base had declined dramatically, causing the population to drop while unemployment and crime increased markedly. Reversing that destructive trend has been James primary goal since he took office. In 1998, James told Ronald Smothers of the New York Times, Ive changed Newark from a city you couldnt give away to a city that everybody wants.

Taught for 25 Years in Newark

Sharpe James was born on February 20, 1936 in Jacksonville, Florida. His unusual first name was his mothers maiden name. When Sharpe was still a baby,

At a Glance

Born Sharpe James, Jacksonville, FL, Feb. 20, 1936; married Mary Mattison; three sons, John, Elliott, and Kevin, Education: Montclair State College, B.S., education, 1958; Springfield State College, M.S., education, 1961, Postgraduate work at Washington State University, Columbia University, and Rutgers University.

Career: Teacher, Broadway Junior High School, Newark, NJ, 1961-62; teacher and research assistant, Washington State University, 1962-63; teacher in New Jersey public school system, 1963-68; professor of education, Essex County College, 196886 (also served as director of athletics and chair of the department of physical education, recreation, and health); councilman, South Ward, Newark City Council, 1970-82; Councilman-at-Large, 1982-86; Mayor of Newark, 1986-; Senator, State of New Jersey, 1999-.

Selected awards Ten Best Dressed Men/The Fashion Foundation of America, 1987; Honorary Doctorates from Montclair State College, 1988, and Drew University, 1991; Top 100 influential black Americans, Ebony, 1991, 1992; New Jersey State Tennis Association champion.

Member: National League of Cities Board of Directors; New Jersey League of Municipalities Board of Directors; U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Addresses: Office Mayor, City of Newark, 920 Broad Street, Room 200, Newark, NJ, 07102. HomeNewark, NJ.

his father died, and his mother moved the family north to Newark. She worked in the restaurant business, and later became a nurse. James attended Newarks Miller Street Elementary School and South Side High School, where he was the star of the track team.

After graduating with honors in 1954, James enrolled at Montclair State College as an education major. After graduating with honors in 1958, James served with the U.S. Army in Germany for two years. During his service, he received an expert infantry badge, the highest honor awarded in peacetime. In the Army, as in college, James was an 800-meter champion on the track team. He eventually made it to the finals of the Olympic tryouts in 1960.

Returning to the United States, James earned a masters degree in education from Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts. He also pursued advanced academic work at Washington State University, Columbia University, and Rutgers University. From 1961 to 1962, James taught at Broadway Junior High School in Newark. The following year, he took a position as a teacher and research assistant at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington. In 1963, he returned to Newark, where over the next five years he taught in four different public schools: Quitman Street Junior High, Clinton Place Junior High, Weequahic High, and West Side High. He also coached city, county, and state championship track and cross-country teams. During this time, James met and married his wife, Mary Mattison.

In 1968, James joined the faculty at Essex County College as a professor of education in the department of behavioral sciences. During the 18 years he spent at Essex County, he founded and directed the department of athletics, becoming the first African American athletic director in the state college system. As chair of the department of physical education, recreation, and health, he was also the first African American to be a department chair in the New Jersey system. In addition, James served as acting chair of the education department, and vice-president of the Garden State Athletic Conference (GSAC).

Elected to Newarks City Council

Shortly after joining Essex County College, James decided to get involved in politics. He was first elected to public office in 1970 as councilman for Newarks South Ward. James held this position for twelve years, winning re-election in 1974 and again in 1978, when he ran unopposedbecoming the first elected official in the history of Newarks government to do so. In 1982 James was elected councilman-at-large, becoming the first person in the citys history to have been elected both as a ward councilman and as an at-large councilman.

During his years on the city council, James built a reputation as a stubborn and opinionated lawmaker, unafraid of offending the other members. As Alfonso A. Narvaez wrote in the New York Times, When the council voted new cars for council members, Mr. James said he would not accept his. When his colleagues pushed for a pay increase for themselves, he voted no.

James also became active in national Democratic Party politics, In 1972, he was elected a delegate to the National Democratic Convention in Miami, Florida. In 1980, he was co-chair of the Essex County Committee to elect Ted Kennedy and served as delegate whip at the Democratic National Convention.

During the mid-1980s, James decided to run for mayor of Newark. In his view, the citys inhabitants were dissatisfied with the administration of Kenneth A. Gibson, the citys first African American mayor. There was no hue and cry in the streets to keep Mayor Gibson in office, and I sensed that, James told Narvaez of the New York Times. Still, few thought James was capable of defeating Gibson, who was running for an unprecedented fifth term, and had a powerful political organization behind him.

Before James could win over any voters, though, he had to win over his wife. She does not like politics. She told me not to run and to remove myself from politics, James was quoted as saying in the New York Times. At the same time, however, She was upset at the decline of Newark, and my answer to her was that I would run and try to make a difference. His campaign slogan, Newark needs a Sharpe change, spelled out his views perfectly.

Newarks Second Black Mayor

In May of 1986, James was elected Newarks thirty-fifth mayor. He became the first former city councilman, and the second African American, to be elected mayor in the citys history. We had some good laughs recalling how people said it couldnt be done, that we didnt have a chance of upsetting the Gibson machine, campaign manager Willie Brown told the New York Times. James was sworn into office in July of that yearthe first time in 25 years that he was not a full-time teacher, he told Narvaez of the New York Times.

James immediately launched a number of innovative plans to revitalize the city. One of his earliest ideas was to build a performing arts complex in downtown Newark, which would play an essential role in bringing back the citys nightlife. At the time, it seemed almost laughable to suggest that the city should be the site of the states premiere cultural center, Ronald Smothers wrote in the New York Times. It would take nearly ten years of struggling before James was able to make his dream a reality.

As mayor, James became active in both state and national mayoral organizations. In 1987, he was elected to the New Jersey League of Municipalities Board of Directors. The following year, he was elected to the National League of Cities Board of Directors. In 1989, James was elected to the United States Conference of Mayors Advisory Board. He also continued to be active in national Democratic politics, serving as state chairman for Jesse Jacksons presidential campaign. At the end of his first term, when James sought re-election, no one could be found to run against him. He had achieved yet another first, becoming the first mayor in the citys history to run unopposed.

In 1991, James was elected vice-president of the New Jersey Conference of Mayors. That same year, he was also elected to the board of trustees of the United States Conference of Mayors. In 1992, he was elected second vice-president of the National League of Cities; the following year, he was elected president, a position he held until 1994. That year, James won a third term as mayor, defeating several opponents.

Soon after his election victory, the James administration was accused of corruption. The former high school track star, politically surefooted for 20 years, is trying to outrun an intensifying federal probe into his fund-raising tactics and his free-spending lifestyle, John Moody wrote in Time in 1995. James charged that the investigation was politically and racially motivated, and that a white mayor would not be subject to such criticism. By 1997, his police director had been convicted and his chief of staff arrested on bribery charges, but no charges were brought against James.

Meanwhile, James continued to rack up accomplishments in his third term in officewhich he highlighted during his campaign for a fourth term. The crime rate had dropped by more than 25 percent from 1997 to 1998, more than 25,000 jobs had come to the city in 1997, and more than 3,000 housing units had been built or rehabilitated.

In 1997, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) opened to rave reviews. The arts center offered a 2, 750-seat concert hall and opera house and a smaller, friendly 514-seat space, along with restaurants, banquet and rehearsal rooms, and everything else youd expect from an institution whose budget makes it the seventh largest arts center in the country, Greg Sandow wrote in the Wall Street Journal. NJPAC has, after Carnegie Hall, the best space in the New York area for large classical concerts. The multicultural programming at NJPAC, which was designed to attract all members of Newarks diverse population, resulted in a 25 percent share of ticket sales to minorities, a number five times greater than normal for any other facility this large, Sandow wrote in the Wall Street Journal

Elected New Jersey State Senator

In June of 1999, James was elected state senator for the 29th district, replacing Wynona M. Lipman, who had died in office. As 29th district senator, I will continue to fight for the issues that she so valiantly pursued, James said in a speech during his swearing-in ceremony. I will be a voice for the voiceless; a champion for better cities, a better New Jersey, and an America of which all its people can be proud. The fact that James had not resigned as mayor of Newark was greeted with a barrage of media criticism. James acknowledged this during his swearing-in ceremony: Notwithstanding my exemplary experience, knowledge and accomplishments, as mayor of Newark and a former legislator for 16 years on the Newark Municipal Council, I have been vilified and criticized, he said. I alone have been called greedy, selfish, and a double dipper.

James has received a number of awards in many different fields. The Fashion Foundation of America named him as one of the nations Ten Best Dressed Men of 1987. He was selected as one of Ebony magazines top 100 influential black Americans in both 1991 and 1992. An avid tennis player, he has ranked as Newarks senior tennis champion and New Jersey State Tennis Association champion. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Laws degree from Montclair State College in 1988 and an Honorary Doctorate from Drew University in 1991.

Among James future projects for Newark are a light rail link between the airport and downtown; a science park with research and high-technology laboratories; a new science high school; and housing centered around Essex Community College, Rutgers University, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Without a doubt, we are changing the skyline in every neighborhood and ward in our city, James was quoted as saying in the New York Times. We are building a new Newark.

Sources

Periodicals

New York Times, May 13, 1998, p. B5; May 12, 1998, p. B4; Jan. 31, 1998, p. B1; May 15, 1986.

Time, July 10, 1995.

Other

Additional information for this profile was obtained from a biography of Mayor Sharpe James from the Newark Public Information Office; the personal resume of Sharpe James; the speech from the swearing-in ceremony for State Senate on June 21, 1999; and Washington Post articles written by music writer Greg Sandow, available at www.gregsandow.com.

Carrie Golus

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"James, Sharpe 1936–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"James, Sharpe 1936–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 21, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/james-sharpe-1936

"James, Sharpe 1936–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved August 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/james-sharpe-1936