Newark, NJ – Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. dedicated a bronze plaque honoring the life and legacy of the late D. Bilal Beasley, who served as a member of the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders and the Irvington City Council, on Wednesday, May 20th. The plaque is located on the promenade in the Essex County Government Complex to raise awareness about Mr. Beasley’s contributions to Essex County. He was a resident of Irvington when he passed away on December 22, 2014, at the age of 68.

“Bilal Beasley was a consummate public servant who represented the people of Irvington and Essex County with dignity, compassion and class. An Irvington Councilman and Essex County Freeholder, he always was a gentleman who was a friend to those he served. He was one of the first people to stand beside me when I decided to run for Essex County Executive, and I will always remember him as a dear friend,” DiVincenzo said. “His long tenure as an elected official means a great deal and having this plaque here where he served will be a good reminder of the positive impact he had,” he added.

“Thank you on behalf of my family,” said Mr. Beasley’s son, Omar, who was accompanied at the podium by Beasley’s wife of 50 years, A. Baseemah. “We called him the nurturer because he prepared us for life. He was a teacher before he was a politician and he made sure his family came before anything else. We will all try very hard to continue his legacy,” he added.

Friends and other elected officials spoke highly of Mr. Beasley.

“Bilal Beasley embodied peace, justice and equality. He was my friend,” Essex County Democratic Committee Chairman Leroy Jones said. “He believed that public service was a privilege and that family was the more important thing in life. I want to thank the County Executive for creating this pathway where we can honor our leaders like Bilal Beasley, Phil Thigpen and Ray Durkin,” he added.

“Today is an opportunity to celebrate the life and legacy of Bilal Beasley. When we served together on the Freeholder Board, Bilal made sure we worked together as a team. And he was the force behind the Affirmative Action initiative, working with the County Executive to make the progress we achieved,” former Freeholder President Blonnie Watson said.

Sheriff Armando Fontoura said he remembers receiving calls from Mr. Beasley to help others in the community, never making a request for himself. “He was a great individual who was always looking out for others. He will be greatly missed,” Fontoura said.

“He acted with kindness, and everyone who had a relationship with Bilal benefitted from it,” Assemblyman Ralph Caputo said. “He would have had just as much impact and influence even without the titles of Freeholder and Councilman,” he added.

“Mr. Beasley was the epitome of what it meant to be kind and to help people grow. He always led by example,” Irvington Mayor Tony Vauss said. “There is not enough time for me to say all the things I want to about my mentor. There is so much I learned from him. We understand that we lost a leader, but his legacy will live on,” he added.

“Bilal Beasley had the courage to give a fledgling law firm the opportunity,” said attorney Ray Hamlin of Hunt, Hamlin & Ridley, who was a friend of Beasley’s. “For our firm, there is no one more important who shaped our future, and without Bilal we probably would not have a law firm,” he added.

“Anything Bilal did was successful because his only goal was to help the citizens of Irvington,” Freeholder Lebby Jones said. “My sadness is a joyful one because of all the lives he touched. It is important for us to keep his legacy alive and continue what he has done,” she added.

The plaque begins with a quote by Marian Wright Edelman, President and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund: “Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.” The plaque continues as follows: “Bilal Beasley has spent the majority of his professional life in one form of public service or another. He was an Irvington Council member for 26 years, from 1988 to 2014, two as President, while also a Freeholder from 2002-2014. In 2009, he was inducted into the NJ Municipal Legislators Hall of Fame, in recognition of his more than 20 years of holding elected office. A member of many Freeholder committees, serving as Chair of the Affirmative Action Committee, he was also a founding member of Newark Emergency Services for Families, a major community-based organization. We thank him for his years of service, always Putting Essex County First.”

Mr. Beasley’s career as an elected official began in 1988 when he was elected to the Irvington Municipal Council. During his tenure on the Council, he served as President for his last two years in office. In 2002, he was elected to the Freeholder Board to represent District 2 and continued to serve until 2014 when he decided not to seek re-election. In 2009, he was elected to the NJ Municipal Legislators Hall of Fame for his 26 years of public service as a Councilman and Freeholder. In 2007, he ran for the NJ State Senate against incumbent Ronald Rice and was narrowly defeated. Mr. Beasley was also involved in Essex County politics, serving as the Democratic Committee Chairman in Irvington since 1994.

He was one of the founding members Newark Emergency Services for Families, a Newark-based organization that assists disadvantaged families with housing, nutrition support and other services. He also worked for the Newark Housing and Redevelopment Authority, from which he retired in 2002, and as a Commissioner on the Irvington Housing Authority since 1998. He also was involved in the Irvington Chapter of the NAACP, Chairman of the Irvington Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Committee, a member of the South Ward Joint Block Association and member of the Friends of Irvington Park. Mr. Beasley was a partner in a family-owned shoe care business located at Newark Liberty International Airport.

Several buildings and open spaces in the Essex County Government Complex have been named after prominent people who have influenced the development of Essex County. The park next to the Historic Courthouse and statue in front of the Hall of Records honor Barringer High School graduate and U.S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr.; a plaza in front of the Essex County Veterans Courthouse and a statue honor Civil Rights pioneer Rosa Parks; the plaza in front of the LeRoy Smith Public Safety Building and a statue honor the late Congressman Donald M. Payne, who was the first African American Congressman in New Jersey; the plaza at the south entrance of the Veterans Courthouse and a statue honor former New Jersey Governor and Essex County Prosecutor Brendan Byrne; the plaza in the Essex County Veterans Memorial Park and a statue honor the late Jorge Oliveira, a 10-year veteran of the Essex County Sheriff’s Office who was killed while serving his country in Afghanistan. The Veterans Courthouse and the Essex County Veterans Memorial Park are named as a tribute to the men and women who have defended our country and freedoms while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. The Essex County LeRoy F. Smith, Jr., Public Safety Building is named for LeRoy Smith, a Newark resident who served as Deputy Director of Emergency Medical Services for the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey for 38 years before retiring in 2007. In Brennan Park is a monument recognizing the late Charles Cummings, who served as the official Newark historian and librarian with the Newark Public Library for over 40 years. The plaza in front of the Historic Courthouse is named for former Essex County Prosecutor James Lordi. There are also bronze plaques in the promenade recognizing the late Raymond Durkin, long-time Chairman of the Essex County Democratic Committee and New Jersey Democratic Party; the late Philip Thigpen, Essex County Register and long-time Essex County Democratic Committee Chairman; the late Thomas Durkin, a prominent Essex County attorney; the late Lena Donaldson Griffith, a cultural arts and civil rights pioneer in Newark and Essex County; the late Raymond Brown, a civil rights leader and long-time attorney; and the late Superior Court Justice Thomas “Timmy” McCormack, who was one of the authors of the County’s current Administrative Code and Freeholder By-Laws.

Anthony Puglisi
Lauren Shears