Ronald Rice ended his tenure of nearly 36 years in the New Jersey State Senate today, retiring for health reasons after becoming the longest-serving Black legislator in New Jersey history. His resignation will trigger a special election convention to pick an interim replacement and a November 2022 special election to fill the remainder of his term that expires in January 2024.
Democratic State Chairman LeRoy Jones has issued the following statement in recognition of Rice’s last day in office:
“Today Senator Ron Rice, one of the greatest champions for social justice we have ever had in the New Jersey State Legislature, retires after nearly four decades of public service. Senator Rice is the longest-serving Black legislator in state history and has been a tireless advocate for not only his constituents in Essex County but the entire state of New Jersey.
“Senator Rice began his service career as a Marine in Vietnam and then as a police detective in his home city of Newark. In 1981, Rice won a seat on the Newark City Council where he was re-elected three times, spending sixteen years as a council member. He ran and won his seat in the State Senate in 1986 and went on to be re-elected eleven times. He also served as Deputy Mayor in Newark from 2002-2006.
“Senator Ron Rice is a social justice and civil rights icon that New Jersey has been deeply fortunate to have leading us into a brighter and more equitable future. There are not many who come along with the level of commitment to public service that Ron Rice exemplified throughout his entire life. He invigorated everyone he met and worked with and never lost sight of fighting for those who often get left behind, disenfranchised, or ignored. He was a passionate champion for civil rights and racial equality – never backing down from a fight and always ready and willing to go to bat for the people and issues he cared about most. Sometimes, that meant that he ruffled a few feathers or made people mad, but that never stopped him from fighting for what he believed was right. His effect on our communities will be felt long after this departure and I have no doubts that we will continue to see the fruits of his labor for another four decades to come.
“On a personal note, I will miss getting to work with Senator Rice on a regular basis but am glad to see that he will now be able to focus on his health and his family after a lifetime of service. I am also comforted knowing that so many in our legislature will continue Senator Rice’s mission of “etching compassion and equality into our society, one issue, and sometimes one person, at a time.”