Assemblyman Jerry Green dies at 79

Assemblyman Jerry Green was a legislator with impact who served in the General Assembly for 26 years. Born and raised in Roselle, he rose through the ranks to chair the Union County Democratic Committee. He died Wednesday, two days after his 79th birthday.

Before his public life, Green was a basketball star at Abraham Clark High School in Roselle. As a young man, Green worked as a butcher, and by age 27 was a business owner. He served on the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders from 1989 to 1991 and was one of the facilitators responsible for bringing the Union County College campus to Plainfield, the city he called home.

Sen. Bob Menendez in a statement said, “Plainfield is better off because of Jerry Green. Union County is better off because of Jerry Green. New Jersey is better off because of Jerry Green.”

First elected to the Assembly in 1991, Green served in the 17th Legislative District for 10 years. After redistricting, he settled into the 22nd District and eventually became the speaker pro tempore in 2008. He was the longest-serving current member of the chamber.

Green was a family man, an elder in the black community, and a mentor to many, including Union County colleague Assemblyman Jamel Holley.

“Jerry Green is an inspiration for any young man or woman growing up in humble means and wondering what will become of them.” Holley said. “Jerry was a hardworking man his entire life; he never retired. He never stopped trying to help others get ahead.”

Green was sincerely dedicated to public service. He served on the Union County Planning Board, the Parks & Recreation Committee, and Human Services and Economic Development. He also served on the Union County Adolescent Substance Abuse Program, the Private Industry Council, the Union County Municipal Utilities Authority and was an honorary member of the Union County Police Chiefs Association.

Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly said Green was, “a true political servant who taught us all that the most important thing we must remember as legislative representatives is where we came from and the constituents we serve.”

Green was a champion for civil rights and education, helping return Abbott district status to Plainfield schools. But he may be best remembered for his fight for affordable housing, a persistent issue in the state. He was the chair of Housing and Community Development and Joint Committee on Housing Affordability.

“No one knew more about affordable housing, and no one fought harder for it to become a reality for hardworking New Jerseyans,” Assemblyman John Burzichelli said.

His death prompted a flood of fond remembrances from other elected officials across the state.

“His passing is a great loss, but our memory of all he accomplished and all those he helped will not dissipate,” said Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman.

Gov. Phil Murphy said, “While Jerry could be tough as nails, he was also a gentleman, whose bigger-than-New Jersey smile and quiet humor could easily light up a room.”

Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, who served with Green in the Assembly, said Green’s “quiet demeanor and understated humor hid a giant of the Legislature who was unafraid to go to the mat for his constituents and the values of equality, fairness and opportunity he held deep within himself.”

“He was sharp when it came to politics and policy, a true leader and a model for all to emulate,” said Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin. “It’s quite simply impossible to imagine the Assembly without Jerry Green.”

He is survived by his wife, Wanda Green, and his five children; Sheldon Green, Jerry Green Jr., Tracy Green, Tamika Green-Madison, and Jeron Green.