East Orange celebrates one of its own with street renaming

Photo by EmilyAnn Jackman
Goldie T. Burbage, with the crowd’s help, pulls off the casing to a new street sign showcasing her name on the corner of Monroe and Roosevelt avenues, now named Goldie ‘Mrs. B’ Burbage Lane.

EAST ORANGE, NJ — Mayor Ted Green joined the city of East Orange for a ceremony renaming the corner of Monroe and Roosevelt avenues in honor of longtime resident and trailblazing civic leader Goldie T. Burbage on Thursday, Sept. 19.

Burbage, 94, was the first black woman in the history of East Orange to serve as secretary to the mayor, James Kelly, as well as secretary to the director of the Law Department, the tax collector and the business administrator of the East Orange Board of Education. During former Mayor William Hart’s administration, she created the city’s first personnel office and was appointed by the Civil Service as the city’s chief personnel officer.

Renaming a street after Burbage was something the community wanted to do for the resident and Mayor Ted Green couldn’t agree more.

“She was one of the first African American women to work for the first African American mayor here in the city of East Orange,” Green told the Record-Transcript. “So we thought it would be fitting, along with the East Orange City Council, to honor her. As we say, ‘Give her her flowers, as she’s living,’ so we’re doing just that for Goldie Burbage. We have our lieutenant governor out here. We have Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake. We have the council folk and we have her family and friends out here today.”

With a crowded street filled with Burbage’s family, friends and supporters, the event was spearheaded by 5th Ward Councilwoman Alicia Holman.

“I put this together with my colleague,” Holman told the Record-Transcript. “I did a presentation for Alberta Daniels. We renamed Maple Avenue and, earlier this summer, I saw someone at a program and they were thanking me and saying how wonderful the program was for Ms. Daniels and I walked into the church and saw ‘Mrs. B’ and I instantly wanted to do one for Mrs. Burbage, who, by the way, will be turning 95 on Nov. 18.”

Holman said at the event: “I believe in those who have created a foundation here in East Orange and have done as much as she has done here in the city. I believe that it’s only befitting to name something for their legacy throughout the city of East Orange. So when our young kids come up, we can tell a story of who these people were. I’m talking staunch supporters of East Orange that have done so much. As I read her biography, the various committees that she’s been on, we have to recognize our seniors and give them their flowers while they’re here to receive them. I am her council representative as well. She lives here. So when I brought the idea to my colleagues, they jumped right in. The mayor jumped right in and said this was a great idea. Everyone knows Mrs. B, as you can see, and loves her as well. It’s just befitting to bestow this honor on her.”

Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver was also on hand for the renaming event.

“I think this was an awesome event and, what was so beautiful about it, it was truly a community event,” Oliver told the Record-Transcript. “The people who have known and worked with Mrs. Burbage through the years and those that she has supported and the organizations she has touched, they were all out here and the fact that she was surprised meant a lot. Mrs. Burbage is 90-plus years old and it’s just phenomenal that she has been able to do all that she’s done during her lifetime and she’s deserving of having a street named for her. What I loved about it the most was the sense of community.”

The Historical Society of East Orange, led by its president, Darryl Jeffries, presented Burbage with a bouquet of flowers during the ceremony, bringing Green’s words,“Give her her flowers while she can still smell them,” to life.

“Goldie T. Burbage is most deserving of this day,” Jeffries told the Record- Transcript. “She’s a civic icon who’s legacy of service to the city will resonate for years and years to come. Goldie T. Burbage is profoundly committed to civic excellence. Her legacy of achievement has demonstrated that over her entire career, both as a professional and as a concerned citizen. We’re proud to salute her today. This is a banner day for Goldie T. Burbage, her family and the great city of East Orange.”

According to Burbage’s family members, the event was a huge surprise to her, as she had no idea she was going to be honored with a street renaming ceremony.

Her son, Geoffrey, was adamant about surprising his mother with the event.

“I’m just glad that we were able to put this together and that she didn’t have a clue as to what was going on,” Geoffrey T. Burbage told the Record-Transcript, “because she’s one that’s very on top of everything and so it’s hard to put together things like this. But with the help of the mayor, the council and all of those entities within the local and state government, we’ve pulled this off.”

Goldie Burbage continues to stay active in the community, serving on the boards of the Historical Society of East Orange Inc., the Salvation Army of the Oranges and Maplewood and the East Orange Chamber of Commerce, to name a few.