Elton E. Hill, a prominent Essex County political strategist who helped run Kenneth Gibson’s 1970 campaign to become the first Black mayor of Newark, died on July 11. He was 89.
Hill and Gibson were childhood friends and he became involved in politics when Gibson first challenged Mayor Hugh Addonizio in 1966. He ran the Kenneth A. Gibson Civic Association that helped build a political organization that helped Gibson oust Addonizio four years later.
A group of Newark political insiders known as the Basement Meeting Group because they met in the basement of Hill’s home used to refer to him as “The Swami.”
Hill served as Gibson’s assistant business administrator and later as the business administrator, and worked at City Hall for the entire sixteen years Gibson served as mayor.
In 1976, Hill was the Newark campaign coordinator for Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign.
Hill played a central role in Gibson’s bids for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 1981 and 1985. He also held a key position in Rev. Jesse Jackson’s 1984 presidential campaign in New Jersey.
In 1984, Gill launched an unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic nomination for Essex County Freeholder-At-Large. He ran on running on a slate with Freeholder Corrina Kay. Essex Democrats declined to support Kay for re-election and replaced her on their organization line with another East Orange Democrat, Cardell Cooper.
Gov. Brendan Byrne named Hill to the New Jersey Real Estate Commission, and later to the North Jersey District Water Commission. As a water commissioner, Hill forged a close political alliance with Nutley political powerhouse Frank Orechio and his brother, Senate President Carmen Orechio.
After Sharpe James unseated Gibson in 1986, he demanded that Hill be replaced on the commission. Gov. Thomas Kean renominated him anyway.
Gibson died last year.
Hill is survived by his wife, Mary, seven children, thirteen grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.