|34th Mayor of Newark|
|Preceded by||Hugh Addonizio|
|Succeeded by||Sharpe James|
May 15, 1932 |
|Political party||Democratic Party|
||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (April 2009)|
Kenneth Allen Gibson (born May 15, 1932, in Enterprise, Alabama) is an American Democratic Party politician, who was elected in 1970 as the 34th Mayor of Newark, New Jersey, the largest city in the state. He was the first African American elected mayor of any major Northeastern U.S. city. He served from 1970 to 1986.
Gibson studied civil engineering in college.
Gibson worked as an engineer for the New Jersey Highway Department from 1950 to 1960. From 1960 to 1966, he was Chief Engineer for the Newark Housing Authority, and Chief Structural Engineer for the city from 1966 to 1970.
When elected in 1970, Gibson noted that "Newark may be the most decayed and financially crippled city in the nation." He entered office as a reformer, alleging that the prior administration was corrupt. The same year that Gibson was elected, the previous mayor Hugh Addonizio was convicted of extortion and conspiracy.
Gibson was also a representative of the city's large African-American population, many of whom were migrants or whose parents or grandparents had come North in the Great Migration. The city's industrial power had diminished sharply. Deindustrialization since the 1950s cost tens of thousands of jobs when African Americans were still arriving from the South looking for opportunity.
Combined with forces of suburbanization and racial tensions, the city encountered problems similar to those of other major industrial cities of the North and Midwest in the 1960s - increasing poverty and dysfunction for families left without employment. The city was scarred by race riots in 1967, three years before Gibson took office. Many businesses and residents who could, left the city after the riots.
Gibson's election was seen by some in almost prophetic terms. Poet and playwright Amiri Baraka wrote, "We will nationalize the city's institutions, as if it were liberated territory in Zimbabwe or Angola." Gibson himself said, "Wherever American cities are going, Newark will get there first." Gibson entered and with his new city council "challenged the corporate sector's tax arrangements and pushed business interests to take a more active and responsible role in the community".
By 1974, Gibson had alienated some of his supporters in his efforts to keep businesses from leaving the city. One of them, poet Amira Baraka, labeled him a "neo-colonialist" and complained that Gibson was "for the profit of Prudential, Public (private) Service, Port Authority, and other huge corporations that run in and around and through and out of Newark paying little or no taxes" while the residents were ignored. Corporate and state interests had major influence in the city.
In 1976, Gibson became the first African-American president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
After 16 years under Gibson, the city’s unemployment rate had risen nearly 50 percent, its population had continued dropping, it had no movie theaters, only one supermarket remained, and only two-thirds of its high school students were graduating. In 1986 challenger Sharpe James defeated Gibson in his attempt to be reelected for a fifth term.
During his last term, Gibson was indicted on conspiracy and misconduct charges but was acquitted at trial. He was later indicted for bribery and for stealing funds from a school construction project in nearby Irvington, New Jersey. His law firm pleaded guilty to fraud, while Gibson himself pleaded guilty to tax fraud in 2002.
Gibson's predecessor and successor as Mayor of Newark were also convicted of 'white-collar' criminal offenses. Sharpe James was convicted of federal fraud charges in 2007.
|Mayor of Newark
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