Newark pays last respects to city’s first African-American mayor

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NEWARK -

Newark residents are paying their last respects to former Mayor Kenneth Gibson, the city’s first African-American mayor.

Gibson laid in state at Newark City Hall while hundreds of people gathered to say goodbye. Among the mourners was former Newark Mayor Sharpe James, who defeated Gibson in the 1986 mayoral election. He called Gibson his mentor.

“The man at the right time when Newark was in a racial divide. We needed a quiet man who could pull out that suit and be Superman,” James says

RELATED: Newark's first black mayor Ken Gibson dies 

Gibson was elected as mayor in 1970, just three years after simmering racial tension erupted into violence in the city. His election ushered in a shift of power in the Brick City.

“It made us extremely proud. And it made me feel like we truly were a part of the city,” says Newark resident Evelyn Williams. “He brought City Hall to the people.”

Those who were close to Gibson in the political world say that he stayed involved in what happened in Newark long after he left office.

“Up until the day he passed he was still mentoring us,” says state Sen. Ronald Rice. “He was still telling us, ‘Watch this, do this, pay attention to this.’”

Gibson’s funeral was held Thursday evening.

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