Garden State Bar Association and Association of Black Women Lawyers released the following statement on the death of former State Sen. Ronald Rice:
An ally of the Garden State Bar Association (GSBA) and Association of Black Women Lawyers of New Jersey (ABWL-NJ) and one of the most effective advocates for the concerns of African Americans in New Jersey history has passed away. Senator Ronald L. Rice once stated that he had aspired to become an attorney prior to life taking him in other directions. However, Senator Rice ultimately became as effective a change agent in the NJ Legislature as any litigator persuading a jury or Judge.
Throughout his tenure in various elected offices during his post military and law enforcement career, Ron Rice embodied the characteristics we wish all of our elected representatives displayed: strength, honor, independence in thought and action, effectiveness, and accessibility to those without political power. Much has been observed and written about Senator Rice’s ferocious power combined with gentlemanly civility, studiously prepared argument, and shrewd strategic and tactical political maneuvering.
The Senator served as a model from which other Black elected and public officials can learn. His courage was second to none. He was not just a lone ranger. He was fearless. He clearly understood and anticipated that he would be ostracized, attacked and undermined for some of his positions. However, they were hits he was more than willing to take for his People and his constituency. He was in fact a real community, civic, and legislative warrior.
Few New Jersey officials have championed the concerns of African Americans in this state so effectively – not only fighting to break status quo systemic injustice, but insightfully anticipating political maneuvers by others that would compromise the lives of African Americans.
Senator Rice’s strength manifested itself in the dignity he displayed both after frequent triumphs and occasional defeats.
Senator Rice’s values and actions as an advocate and public official aligned with and advanced many the same values at the core of the foundation and continued existence of our respective organizations. He facilitated goals of the GSBA and ABWL-NJ that benefited the African American Community in New Jersey that are too many to list here. A few examples are:
- His advocacy for decriminalization of those convicted of marijuana related offenses concurrent with the legalization initiative in NJ;
- His racial impact statements on proposed legislation;
His support for a Reparations Task Force;
- Consistent support for our GSBA/ABWL-NJ Judicial and Prosecutorial Appointments Committee (JPAC) by directing those who approached him about judgeships to join and contact our joint JPAC Committee for assistance, evaluation, and vetting;
- His appearance at GSBA General Membership meetings to present issues;
- His generosity in providing guidance to those considering seeking elected office;
- His guidance and coordination with the GSBA/ABWL-NJ in correspondence to the Governor and other elected officials addressing the disparate effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on African American communities, individuals and African American business owners and independent
Without studying his tenure most of us will not realize the benefits we enjoy that are the result of his actions. When not displaying his warrior soul and acting to address important topics at hand Senator Rice was often open, friendly and accessible – taking and responding to calls and making time to talk. Usually quite serious in demeanor, Senator Rice’s sense of humor could sneak up on you without warning. He was devoted to his family and loyal to his allies.
This irreplaceable hero will be missed as his legacy is remembered.