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Arnold Cream, aka Jersey Joe Wolcott, right, fights Joe Louis in 1947. (Photo: Smithsonian Institution.)

Trailblazer: Arnold Cream, aka Jersey Joe Wolcott

World heavyweight boxing champion was first Black sheriff in New Jersey

By David Wildstein, January 17 2022 12:18 am

Arnold Cream, known as famed heavyweight boxing champion Jersey Joe Wolcott, was the first Black to win election as a county Sheriff in New Jersey.

Cream first ran for sheriff in 1968, but lost the Democratic primary to Spencer H. Smith, a Camden firefighter who had the organization line, by a 58%-42% margin.

He ran under his real name and had the backing of Camden Mayor Alfred Pierce, who was battling the county Democratic organization at the time.

Three years later, Democrats backed Cream for sheriff.  He won the race by a 56%-44% margin against Republican William Strang, the sitting Undersheriff, helping Democrats win two of the three freeholder seats in Camden County.  (Strang is the grandfather of attorney Matt Rooney, the editor and founder of Save Jersey.)

Cream didn’t seek re-election to a second term in 1974.

In 1975, Gov. Brendan Byrne appointed Cream to serve as the chairman of the New Jersey State Athletic Commission, the first Black to hold that post.  Gov. Tom Kean retained Cream, and he served until he reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 in 1984.

Cream fought Joe Louis for the heavyweight title in 1947 and against Ezzard Charles in 1949.

Cream became the heavyweight champ in a 1951 rematch with Charles.  He lost the title the following year when he was knocked out by Rocky Marciano.

After retiring from boxing, Cream got a job with the Camden County Corrections Department.  He served as Camden County’s director of Community Relations from 1968 to 1971.

Cream died in 1994 at age 80.

His widow, Riletta Cream, served fifteen years on the Camden County Board of Freeholders before her retirement in 2011.  She died in 2017.

This story was first published on January 18, 2021.

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