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Rodney F.

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  • Community Leaders: Urban League of Morris County and William D. Primus

    by Representative Rodney P. Frelinghuysen

    Posted on 2015-01-22

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    FRELINGHUYSEN of new jersey in the house of representatives Thursday, January 22, 2015 Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the Urban League of Morris County, located in Morristown, New Jersey, and to remember the life of its founder, William D. Primus, and his many achievements.

    The Urban League of Morris County is one of 110 affiliates of the National Urban League, and one of the most active branches in the country. Having served over 4000 families each year, the multi-racial League's self-expressed mission is to ``enable African Americans and other minorities to secure economic self-reliance, parity and power, and civil rights; and to provide assistance to any resident desirous of improving their quality of life.'' In 1910, Morristown native Ruth Standish Baldwin and Dr. George Edmund Haynes founded the Committee on Urban Conditions among Negroes, which would grow exponentially to become what is known today as the National Urban League. As early as 1919, various organizations in Morris County embraced the National Urban League's mission of social justice for African Americans, and by 1944 a multi-racial group of concerned citizens formed a local affiliate, the Urban League of Morris County.

    As the first organization of its kind in Morris County, the Urban League set the standard for serving minorities in the community. It was the first organization in the Morris County community to act as a liaison between African Americans and industry, securing employment opportunities with major corporations for minorities. The League's efforts paved the way for the hiring of qualified minorities into management positions at these corporations. It was also first to coordinate with local high school guidance departments, encouraging African American students to pursue higher education. Moreover, the League was the first to advocate the need for low-income housing in Morristown, resulting in a project for affordable family housing now known as Manahan Village.

    Today, the Urban League of Morris County continues to serve citizens of the community in multiple areas, with programs ranging from corporate internships to housing advocacy, from computer training to English as a Second Language classes.

    This past week, this incredible organization suffered a great loss, as William Primus, former chairman and CEO of the Urban League of Morris County, passed away. Over the course of his life, Bill Primus, a longtime friend of mine, was instrumental in various accomplishments for the advancement of social services to minorities in the region.

    In 1970, Mr. Primus became the first African American member of the Madison Volunteer Fire Department and in 1980, he was the first African American elected to the Madison Borough Council. During his term, Mr. Primus served as vice chairman of the Board of Health and chaired Madison's Housing Authority. As chair, Mr. Primus implemented policies that would lead to the construction of the Rex Tucker Senior Housing Complex in Madison and the town's first affordable public housing.

    Over his 14 years of working with the Urban League, Mr. Primus was instrumental in transforming the Urban League into one of Morris County's most active and influential organizations. When Mr. Primus first began working with the organization, it had a budget of $95,000 and only one full time employee. By the time he retired, it had a budget over $1 million and 14 full time employees.

    Mr. Primus constantly focused on providing affordable housing for the Morris County community. In 2001, he took control of the Morris County Fair Housing Council and transformed it into the Urban League's Fair Housing and Assistance Program. Through this program, the Urban League was able to improve the county's efforts by addressing discrimination and promoting fair practices for housing.

    Additionally, Mr. Primus established the Urban League's youth program, offering both educational and employment services. He created the Summer Work and Youth School Outreach Programs and facilitated the awarding of over 90 academic scholarships during his tenure with the League. Furthermore, Mr. Primus helped me establish the Urban League's Washington intern program that has given so many young men and women from Morris County an opportunity to learn firsthand how Congress works. The Urban League of Morris County handpicks these students and sends them to the Capitol in the summer to serve as interns in my Capitol Hill office.

    Mr. Speaker, I ask you and my colleagues to join me in recognizing the Urban League of Morris County and celebrating the life of William D. Primus.


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