EAST ORANGE, NJ — Former Essex County Freeholder and East Orange City Councilwoman Carol Clark recently celebrated the 100th birthday of her uncle, Jimmy Daniel, at the Summit Ridge Center senior citizens facility in West Orange.
“We’re here to celebrate my Uncle Jimmy’s 100th birthday,” said Clark on Friday, April 28. “He’s part of the ‘greatest generation.’ … He’s a World War II vet; he also is one of the first African-Americans to serve in the Newark Police Department and he integrated the patrol cars. He’s also a freemason and just an overall good guy, and those who are here now are his family members.”
Clark said family members had traveled from as far as “Emporia, Va., and from Baltimore, Md., and from Plainfield and just from near and far” for the event. She said Daniel’s brother, Clarence Daniels, was married to her mother, Elvira.
Jimmy Daniels said he was glad that everybody came out to his centennial celebration, but he was happiest and proudest about the living legacy they represent.
“I appreciate people recognizing me as one, not as just special, but I want you to know that our kind can do just as well as their kind, just don’t take it all on one’s shoulders,” he said Friday, April 28. “The other day, I was thinking to myself how much it was a burden, because of the color of my skin. People getting killed every day and I was always equal. I never showed no partiality. Anyplace I’ve been, I was appreciated and I appreciated it. If they asked about me anywhere, they would say that I was fair.”
Larry Hamm of the People’s Organization for Progress activist group said the key to keeping black history alive and relevant to youth and young people all year round, instead of just one month year during Black History Month, is for senior family members like Jimmy Daniels to tell their stories.
“See, we lived history,” said Hamm on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016, at the Orange Housing Authority Black History Month event. “We don’t have to watch the movie ‘Selma’ to know about the civil rights movement; we lived through that. All y’all got to do is tell your story of how you got here.”
And that’s just what Jimmy Daniels did at his party. He talked about his days serving as an Army MP in France during World War II; his daughters, Clark, and other family members said they never knew that he served as a military policeman or that he once worked at the top secret Picatinny Arsenal.
“That explains why he later went on to become a cop and why he had top secret security clearance when he worked at the Picatinny Arsenal,” said Jimmy’s daughter, who is Clark’s aunt. “I didn’t know that you worked the Picatinny Arsenal until today. It was so top secret, even when we were kids. I didn’t know that he worked with the F.B.I. I knew he did undercover work.
“My mother did undercover work. My mother, his first wife, she was one of the first black women police officers in Newark. There had been a person who was there, more or less, as a matron. But they had a graduating class of women who entered the Newark Police Department, I believe, in 1949. It might have been 1950. My mother graduated from Howard University in 1948 and the women who joined the Newark Police Department had to be college graduates. There was a difference.
“Of course, they didn’t get paid as much as the men who had to graduate from high school, but roles have changed. Things are different. But back then, they had to be college graduates.”