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Former Montclair Mayor Matthew G. Carter. (Photo: McCracken Funeral Home).

Trailblazer: Montclair Mayor Matthew Carter

Republican ran for for State Senate in 1971

By David Wildstein, January 16 2023 12:01 am

Matthew G. Carter (1913-2012) was the first Black mayor of Montclair.  He was elected town commissioner in 1964 and was re-elected in 1968.  He was mayor from 1968 to 1972.

Carter sought the Republican nomination for State Senate in 1971, winning a hotly-contested primary at a time when state senators were elected in countywide at-large elections.

Republicans had held all six Essex Senate seats from 1967 until reapportionment in 1971 reduced the number to five.  Democrats won three of the five seats – Montclair Democrat Wynona Lipman became the first Black woman in the Senate when she took the fifth seat by 908 votes over incumbent Milton Waldor (R-South Orange).  Carter finished 8th, 8,226 votes behind Lipman, but ahead of Irvington Councilman Henry Smolen, a Democrat, and Frederic Remington, who later served as Essex GOP chairman and as a two-term assemblyman.

Carter was born in Danville, Virginia and served as pastor of the Zion Baptist Church in Petersburg, Virginia before a job with the National Council of YMCAs brought him to Montclair.

As mayor, Carter pushed for the adoption of Montclair’s first Fair Housing ordinance, and for the construction of low and moderate income housing.

Carter was the second Black Republican nominee for the State Senate; James E. Churchman, Jr., the owner of a Newark funeral home, lost a Senate bid in 1965.  Among the winners that year was Democrat Hutchins Inge, the first Black to serve in the New Jersey State Senate.  In 1967, J. Harry Smith, who later became the first Black to serve on the Maplewood Township Committee and the first Black president of Essex County College, lost a Republican State Senate primary.

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