Home>Local>Essex>Pearl Beatty, former Essex freeholder, dies at 83

Clockwise starting from the bottom left – former Newark City Councilman Calvin West; Essex County Freeholders Renee Lane, Daniel Tindell, Pearl Beatty, Angelo Cifelli, and Lincoln Turner; and Harry Wheeler, one of Newark’s top political insiders. The photo was from the day Peter Shapiro was sworn in as the Essex County Executive.

Pearl Beatty, former Essex freeholder, dies at 83

Close ally of Newark Mayor Kenneth Gibson was first Essex freeholder president

By David Wildstein, April 03 2019 10:31 am

Pearl Beatty, a legendary veteran of Newark politics and a former Essex County freeholder, died on Tuesday.  She was 83.

Her death comes four days after her longtime political ally, former Newark mayor Kenneth Gibson, passed away.

Beatty was elected to the Board of Freeholders in 1978 – the first election under the new county executive form of government and was the first freeholder president when the new board organized shortly after the November general election.

Her interest in politics began during the 1960 presidential campaign when she was selected to sing at a rally for Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy.  She worked on Kennedy’s campaign that year as Essex County delivered a massive 50,030-vote plurality that helped him carry New Jersey by a margin of just 22,091.

Beatty attended the 1963 March on Washington and was a constant presence when Newark residents picketed the Woolworth department store in a bid to convince them to hire black employees.

She played a key role in Gibson’s 1970 election as the first black mayor of Newark when he ousted two-term incumbent Hugh Addonizio.  She was a key advisor to Gibson during his sixteen years as mayor and served as chair of the Newark Housing Authority.

In 1972, Newark Evening News reporter Peter Bridge quoted Beatty’s claim that she was offered a $10,000 bribe to influence the appointment of the executive director at the authority.  Bridge spent three weeks in prison when he refused to name the individual to a grand jury.

Beatty worked as the scheduler for Democratic presidential candidate Jimmy Carter’s 1976 New Jersey campaign.

Her first campaign for freeholder came during a hotly contested four-candidate Democratic primary for county executive between sheriff John Cryan, the organization choice, and Assemblyman Peter Shapiro (D-South Orange), Freeholder Donald Payne Sr., and county treasurer Samuel Angelo.

Rather than take sides in the county executive primary –Gibson was for Payne, but Beatty had ties to the other candidates – she ran off the line in District 2, which included parts of Newark.  She easily won easily against Clarence Coggins, an aide to Gibson, and two others: Ronald Tuff, Wilbur Kornegay and Columbus Kinsey.

Her general election campaign against Republican Willie Brascher was an even easier win – she won by an 8-1 margin.  Republicans never again opposed her.

She was re-elected in 1981 and 1984.  In her last run, she defeated challengers Clara Deana and Maurice Hagan in the Democratic primary with 76% of the vote.

Beatty did not seek re-election in 1987, one year after Sharpe James unseated Gibson in the Newark mayoral race.

After leaving county government, Gov. Jim Florio appointed her to serve as executive director o the New Jersey Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission.

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