A New Jersey political legend transitioned from the earth today. Former State Senator Ronald L. Rice of Newark, never cynical, never timid, never canned, who pulled long range recon for our collective history as Americans, in times when our political culture frequently insists on occupying a space even outside the echo of history, who determinedly advocated people power in a machine politics state, and specifically emphasized the power of lawmakers in a strong governor state, has died.
Vietnam combat veteran, Newark police officer and detective, trailblazing Newark City Councilman, deputy mayor and community organizer, Legislative Black Caucus Chairman, a fighter to his core and a fiercely proud and outspoken lawmaker who often held the state budget hostage until he extracted social justice measures for New Jersey’s impoverished and working-class people, former Senator Rice succumbed at the age of 77 after a battle with cancer.
“When I took over as chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, I said, ‘We’re not where we need be because we’re not organized. Our people need help. They’re crying to us from the streets. Corporate America, the schoolhouses, the correctional facilities, and even the churches – they were not there for them, because in each case, they may only see one, three or four [Black representatives in those institutions.
In August, the Newark lawmaker relinquished his legislative seat after a 36-year career in the state senate.