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Mayor Kenneth A. Gibson Collection

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MG Nwk Gibson-(Main)

Scope and Contents

Box 1: contains 1 folder of copies of 3 personal photographs of Gibson: as a young child with his brother, as a young child with his mother, and in his Army uniform; and 4 folders (ca. 1970-ca. 1980) of mostly black and white, 8" x 10" publicity photographs of Kenneth Gibson, members of his administration, and events in Newark. The bulk of the photographs reflect his official duties. Subjects include ground-breaking, swearing-in, and award ceremonies, and other events; group photographs of the mayor with dignitaries, council members, and prominent guests of the city; inaugurations; speeches; parades, and festivals; etc.

Box 2 contains: a videotape of Gibson's address "Cities in Crisis," to the NJ Library Association (1974); a folder of inauguration material, including an audiotape of the event, a copy of Gibson's inaugural address, photographic negatives, and an interview with Councilman Sharpe James (1974); a folder of printed items including campaign flyers, pamphlets, etc. (1981-1986); 5 issues of the Kenneth Gibson Civic Association newsletter (1972-1973); statements by Gibson, including remarks at businessmen's breakfast (1970),"On Proposed Regulations for the State of NJ developed by the EPA" (1973), "The Misunderstood Crisis" (1978), and a letter to "concerned citizens" (1979); etc.

Box 3 contains: 3 folders of statements, memoranda, and transcripts by Gibson; press releases from the Mayor's office, and from the Newark Public Information Office; and reports (1974-1984). Topics include: municipal revenue and expenditures, layoffs, the Police Department, the Hispanic community, the Board of Education, housing, urban renewal, affirmative action, racial inequality, water supply, and an altercation between Gibson and North Ward Councilman Anthony Carrino that ended in a "melee" (1976), among other issues. Also included are 2 folders of city budget material (1981-1982, 1983-1984)

Record Cartons 1 and 2: consist primarily of newspaper clipping files, with a small amount of other printed material, including press releases, newsletters, brochures, etc. The bulk of the clippings are from the "Star Ledger."

Folder titles in Carton 1 are: Roseville, Salaries, Salvation Army, San Francisco, Sanitation, Schools, Sex, Senate 1978 and 1979, Senior Citizens, Sewers, Carl Sharif/Trial, Sheriff Cryan 1978 and 1979, Sickle [Cell], Snow, Social Agencies, Social Security, Down South Activities, South Ward, Sports, and Spy (ca. 1975-1985)

Folder titles in Carton 2 are: Streets, Aged, AIDs, Airports, Arts, Asbestos, Atlantic City, B, C, Children, Cities 1984, Civil Rights, Courts 1984, D, E, Ethiopian Fund, F, G, H, Housing, I, J, K, L, N, Newark Plus, Newark, P, Police Department (ca. 1975-1985)


  • c. 1930s-1986


Conditions Governing Use

Researchers wishing to publish, reproduce, or reprint materials from this collection must obtain permission. Photocopying of materials is limited and no materials may be photocopied without permission from library staff.

Biographical / Historical

Kenneth Allen Gibson (b. 1932), Newark's first African-American mayor, served as mayor from 1970 to 1986.

Gibson was born in Enterprise, Alabama, but moved to Newark's Central Ward in 1940 with his parents, and younger brother Harold. His father Willie worked in the Swift packing plant in Kearny, and his mother Daisy worked as a seamstress. Gibson attended the Monmouth Street School and Cleveland Junior High School, and graduated from Central High School in 1950, the same year that he entered the Newark College of Engineering. Gibson, whose college education was interrupted by work and by his service in the military, graduated with a degree in Civil Engineering from NCE in 1962.

From 1956-1958, Gibson served in Hawaii with the 65th Engineer Battalion of the United States Army; otherwise he was employed in Newark: Engineer, Highway Department (1950-1960), Chief Engineer, Newark Housing Authority (1960-1966), and Chief Structural Engineer (1966-1970). Gibson first married at the age of eighteen, a marriage that ended in divorce; he later married Muriel Cook (1929-1983) and he had two daughters, Jo Anne (Danks) and Cheryl (Fuller), and one step-daughter, Joyce (Williams).

Throughout the early 1960s, Gibson was active in community affairs, as director of the Newark YW-YMCA and in the Newark chapters of the Urban League and the NAACP. In 1964, Gibson was chosen as the "Outstanding Alumnus" by Newark College of Engineering and as "Man of the Year" by Newark's Junior Chamber of Commerce.

In 1966 Gibson joined the mayoral race only six weeks before the election. He received 1 percent of the vote, causing a run-off, but ultimately lost to incumbent Hugh J. Addonizio. Gibson spent the next four years preparing for the 1970 mayoral campaign, which he won.

When Gibson entered office in 1970 he was faced with a large budget deficit, high crime, and unemployment, along with the lingering social, political, and fiscal ramifications of the 1967 Newark riots. During his tenure as mayor Gibson acquired substantial federal funding for Newark and added or rehabilitated thousands of housing units. Despite all efforts, however, Newark's population continued to decline while crime and unemployment rates remained high.

As municipal challenges mounted in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Gibson's image suffered. In 1981 he made an unsuccessful gubernatorial bid, losing the Democratic nomination to James Florio, and in 1986 he lost Newark's mayoral election to Sharpe James.

Gibson ended his tenure as mayor facing accusations of corruption; in 2002 he was sentenced to three years probation for tax fraud.

Gibson remained active around Newark until his death in 2019.


2.83 Linear Feet

Language of Materials