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An Annual Celebration of Black History in New Jersey
A Focus on People

This Page Salutes Those Who Have Made Truly Commendable and Note-Worthy Contributions in Our Nation and into Our Experience.

Deputy Spencer White
MONTGOMERY COUNTY CONSTABLE'S OFFICE
Conroe Texas

LAWMAN PROVES THERE'S NO COLOR TO THE BADGE WHILE CREDITING GOD AND RELIGION FOR HIS CAREER SUCCESS

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Reprinted from The (Conroe TX) Courier - February 15, 1988

Fair warning to miscreants and sleazebags: Don't be fooled by Spencer White's open face, easy grin and casual manner. There's toughness under that geniality, devotion to his God and his job and single-minded attention to his goals.

Spencer White is a Deputy Constable with the Montgomery County Constable's Office (Precinct 2), a Major by rank, and the first Black Constable's officer hired in Montgomery County, Texas. He went to work for Precinct 2 Constable Billy Colson, Jr., on Colson's first day on the job in 1981. "By Colson hiring me, it opened the door for more Blacks," said Deputy White. And that is exactly what did happen. Five additional Black deputies were hired. Some stayed with the agency and others went on to bigger agencies within the Texas law enforcement system. Spencer's son, Carl Edward White was one of those officers.

Deputy White's single-mindedness comes through when he talks about his potentially dangerous job. "I was determined. I made up my mind to get into law enforcement. Since I was a youngster, I wanted to do it," said white.

At an early age, he bought a police radio scanner and listened to it with the same devotion as some youngsters lavish on bicycles and baseball. When he went to work as an unpaid reserve officer for the Conroe Police Department, it served him in good stead. He knew the language, the codes, the dispatchers and the officers. Not surprisingly, most of his time on duty as a reserve officer was spent as a dispatcher.

At the time, he had a full-time job with the Conroe Furniture Company where he had worked for 16 years. but he said that the furniture had began to get too heavy.

School seemed to be the answer and he attended the Harris County Sheriffs Department Training Academy night school while still working as a reserve officer, but a leg injury during training cut his academic training short. That was only a temporary glitch for the determined officer. In 1981, Spencer attended the University of Houston and graduated Number Two in his class with a 98.5 grade point average. That was a 320 hour training course in which he earned his full law enforcement certification.

His wife, Beulah, a nursing aide at Medical Center Hospital, was doubtful and even fearful about his choice of law enforcement as a career, but she prayed about it and she went along with it, putting it in God's hands.

Deputy White's approach to his job is simple, but not necessarily easy. He enjoys his work, and he meets people of all types, and he treats people the way he would expect to be treated. Deputy White is a Sunday School teacher and the treasurer at his church, the Church of the Living God in Conroe, Texas. Further, he is a trustee for the church general assembly in Dallas and a trainer for deacons in his district, encompassing churches in greater Houston.

Deputy White readily cites the 7th verse of the 7th chapter of Matthew...Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you.

Deputy White was tempted to knock on law enforcement's door in the 1960s, but he hesitated. The time was not right then.

"At the time, a Black officer could only arrest Black and I knew that wasn't right," he said. "If I am going to be a police officer, I'm going to do the job as effectively as I can."

The time was right in 1980. He knocked and Constable Billy Colson opened the door. "God works through people, so I know that He had to put it on Billy Colson to open the door for me and all the other Black officers who have been in the department."

Deputy White scoffs at any notion of having second thoughts about his career choice, doubts or fears.

"When you get up and put on that uniform, you don't know who or what is waiting for you. I'll just be prepared."

Editor's Note:
As a result of the diligence and commitment shown by Deputy Spencer White, and in his making a way for other Black officers to be hired and to excel in Texas law enforcement, Constable Billy Colson, in 1990, had no reservations nor did he hesitate in appointing Dr. Alan Peterson (Chairman of the Heath Center Black History Committee) as a Special Deputy for the Montgomery County Constable's Office and the agency's first Black Ritualistic Crime Investigator.

This exceptional and unique honor was bestowed on the same day that Dr. Peterson became on of 9 living law enforcement officers in the world to receive the INEOA Medal of Valor, normally a posthumous award bestowed to the survivors of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.

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In Loving Memory of
Lawrence H. Hall
 
Sunrise: January 28, 1944
 
Sunset: September 30, 2004
 
Miss Me ...
But Let Me Go
 
When I have come to the end of the road
And the sun has set for me
I want no rites in a gloom-filled room
Why cry for a soul set free.
 
Miss me a little -- but not too long
And not with your head bowed low.
Remember the love that we once shared
Miss me -- but let me go.
 
For this is a journey we all must take
And each must travel alone;
It's all part of a Master's plan
One step on the road to home.
 
When you are lonely and sick of heart
Go to the friends we know
And lose your sorrows in doing good deeds
Miss me -- but let me go.

Lawrence Henry "Larry" Hall,

A Dedicated Newark Star Ledger Columnist 

When a 10-year-old Newark boy was killed after falling through an open elevator shaft in the early 1970s, Lawrence Henry Hall was sent to the scene to talk to the family. A living room full of grieving friends and relatives awaited him, creating a difficult situation for even the most seasoned reporter.

Before delving into questions, however, Mr. Hall sensed a need to first show some compassion. He broke away from the crowd, took the hands of the mother -- looking her straight in the eyes -- and spoke some soothing words of comfort.

"From that point on, through tears, she talked about her son in a way that provided the information needed to tell her poignant story in her own words," recalled Stanley Terrell, a longtime colleague and friend of Mr. Hall's at The Star- Ledger, who was with him that day and considered Mr. Hall both a mentor and a confidant.

Mr. Hall, who worked at The Star-Ledger for 34 years as a reporter, night city editor, co-editor of Newark This Week and columnist, died Thursday morning at his home in Pennsylvania following a long illness. A former resident of Montclair, Mr. Hall was 60.

His journalism career was varied and saw him covering everything from the riots of the 1960s to courtroom trials and city politics. One of the highlights was his coverage of the 1970s murder trial of Mario Jascalevich, a Bergen County physician identified in the media only as "Dr. X" in the early stages of the case.

Jascalevich was accused of killing three patients with injections of curare, a muscle relaxant, at Riverdell Hospital in Oradell. He was acquitted in 1978 after a trial that lasted nearly three years.

Raymond A. Brown, the defense attorney on the case, described Mr. Hall as a talented writer and reporter with high journalistic standards.

"Larry was a hardworking guy. He was a man of the people and he was so intuitive as a reporter. He would make a story sing," Brown said.

Mr. Hall joined The Star-Ledger in 1970, becoming one of just two black reporters in the newsroom at the time, the other being Terrell. He always enjoyed discussing topics of the day with friends and people of all backgrounds. As a columnist, he would write about everything from controversial topics like capital punishment to the simpler things in life, such as the beauty found in the advent of Spring.

"He was an intellectual genius ... a real communicator and people person who was so diverse in every subject," said Newark Mayor Sharpe James, who recalled having many stimulating conversations with Mr. Hall over the years.

Never one to back down from any story as a reporter, the soft-spoken Mr. Hall had a humble response to an angry local elected official who confronted him after he wrote a scathing piece about the inner workings of Newark city government. He simply wanted to make him a "good public servant," Mr. Hall replied.

A lover of jazz and other types of music, Mr. Hall confessed in one of his last columns that he was admittedly from the "old school." He still owned a 12-inch black-and- white television set and a "30-something stereo with real, honest-to-goodness knobs."

Then there was his love for the outdoors, which saw this former city dweller buying a farm house in Pennsylvania almost 20 years ago and transforming himself into a farmer. On his more than 35 acres, he grew everything from vegetables and lilacs to fruit trees.

"That was one of his favorite things, surveying the land on his tractor, seeing what changes needed to be made. He loved it here," said Linda, his wife of 31 years.

Born and raised in Elizabeth, Mr. Hall once recalled that there were "few options back then for young black men." When a guidance counselor suggested he not even bother with college preparatory courses and instead take up a trade, he was determined to defy her low expectations of him.

"Secretly, I vowed to show the counselor and anyone else that they could not define my limitations," he wrote in a 1999 column, part of a series of childhood reflections by six Star-Ledger columnists.

After high school, Mr. Hall would eventually enroll in Rutgers University, working as a reporter for radio station WOR to help pay his way through school. He was about a year or so away from graduating when a French teacher berated him in front of an entire class of white students for showing up late.

"I left her class, and that's the last time I've been to college, except for an occasional seminar. I vowed to become a writer on my terms," wrote Hall, whose father had his own dry cleaning business.

As the late 1960s developed into a turbulent decade where executives in all-white newsrooms were looking to hire black reporters to go out into inner-city neighborhoods rocked by unrest, Mr. Hall found work. He reported for media outlets like WOR and the New York Daily News, and would cross paths with some of the most noted civil rights leaders of the day, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.

One of the accomplishments Hall was especially proud of was becoming a finalist for a White House fellowship. The rigorous selection process required him to travel to Washington D.C., where he had an audience with Lady Bird Johnson.

"He was so pleased that this black kid from Elizabeth, with no college degree, could even be doing this," said his wife.

Besides his wife, also surviving are a daughter, Kelli Vega of Raleigh, N.C.; a son, Laquan of Toms River; his mother, Elizabeth, of Cranford; three brothers, Gary, Edward and Lloyd, and two sisters, Sandra Reynolds and Jacqueline, all of whom live in New Jersey.

A viewing and prayer service for Mr. Hall was held Monday at the Hessling Funeral Home, 428 Main St., in Honesdale, Pa. on October 4, 2004 from 3 to 6 p.m.

A Memorial Service was held on Tuesday, October 5, 2004 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Love of Christ Church, 1608 Porter Rd., in Union, N.J., officiated by Reverend Ellis Smith and Minister Ronald Brangman.

Larry and Linda Hall had recently donated an antique Thrasher from their Honesdale, Pennsylvania Lilac and Nursery Farm to the Heath Farm Homestead in Middletown, New Jersey. Be sure to visit the Heath Farm home page by clicking on the highlighted link below:

The Moses D. Heath Farm and Homestead

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Mrs. Norma Todd
Director of Lunch Break, Incorporated
of Red Bank, New Jersey
and a cherished Member of the
Bertha C. Heath Black History Committee
 
Those in need take a Lunch Break
 
Norma Todd speaks and the conversations stop. Two dozen people bow their heads in prayer and then they enjoy a hot, free meal.
 
One thing about the Lunch Break -- no one leaves hungry. But you better move fast if you want seconds at the borough soup kitchen. Just ask King David, 68, a volunteer who is about to announce last call for anyone interested in another helping of the day's main course -- a delectable egg and onion quiche.

"Don't come in the back lookin' for nothing," David announces. "When I break this line down, that's it."

He may sound like a field general barking orders to hungry troops, but David, is only half serious. The retired produce purchaser has volunteered here for seven years and his goal is to help others.

Everyone is welcome at the Lunch Break, which opens its doors at noon every day except Sunday. Eduardo, a 29-year-old laborer who recently moved to Red Bank from Mexico, said he has made new friends here.

Lawrence Scott, 60, says he has been coming to the Lunch Break since it opened on West Bergen Place in 1986.

"I like the way the staff handles the people who come here, and Mrs. Todd looks out for everybody," says Scott, a former horse groomer who was forced to retire because of asthma and an allergy to hay.

Todd, was the wife of a retired diplomat, James, recently deceased, (himself an active member and presenter for the Bertha C. Heath Black History Committee), who has lived throughout the world and is fluent in several languages, commands a great deal of respect at the Lunch Break, which is much more than a soup kitchen.

Though the Lunch Break normally serves about 100 meals a day, the crowd is smaller today, primarily because Todd has succeeded in finding jobs for many of her clients at area supermarkets.

"It's a rewarding job and I enjoy being here," she says.

Yes, those who work at the Lunch Break feed the hungry. But they also nourish souls and minds and provide a wide array of social services. Today, 12 meals are delivered to home-bound senior citizens and disabled people.

John, a retired maintenance worker with a bad back, takes advantage of the chiropractor who regularly visits the Lunch Break to provide free treatments.

Free eye examinations are available, and visitors are encouraged to borrow books, which are stacked in neat rows on a makeshift bookcase of milk crates.

In the basement, Inice Hennessy is busy sorting through garbage bags filled with donated clothing, which is given away free each Saturday.

Todd's pantry is stocked with canned food, laundry detergent, hot cocoa and dry goods. Shopping carts are filled with groceries and given to needy families. All that Todd asks in return is that one family member work two hours of community service.

There is never a shortage of volunteers at the Lunch Break.

Ann Byron arrives each morning at 8 a.m. and has been cooking meals here for eight years.

"I love to see the people get a good meal," says Byron, a retired nurse's assistant.

Neil Gallagher, a retired harbor pilot from Wall, works once a week. Ed Freedman, a retired salesman from Matawan, serves food and scrubs dishes once a month.

Lunch Break’s mission is being accomplished: Those who need the aid of the soup kitchen and pantry are being fed and getting the needed groceries, despite the highly publicized recent developments, according to those affiliated with the facility.  In addition to providing food for the needy, Lunch Break also assists people in obtaining various social services for which they are eligible.

"People are falling through the cracks," said Frank Dunn, who has been volunteering at the soup kitchen for seven years. "But Lunch Break fills those cracks."

Lunch Break is looking at different ways to raise funds, Poku said, including a campaign to get people to donate old vehicles, which can be sold to raise cash.

Lunch Break’s additional problem is that it lacks someone who can write grants in order to obtain funding from private foundations and other entities.

Norma Todd contended that while donations may have fallen off, "We’re going to make it."

Lunch Break will be holding some events to help raise money, including a Chinese auction and a spaghetti dinner, she said.

Lunch Break was established in 1986 to feed the area’s hungry and assist those who were incapable of helping themselves.

Since then, the nonprofit organization has grown to become a food pantry as well as a site to help people navigate their way to needed social services.

Todd said between 15 and 20 students from area schools, some as far away as Asbury Park, came to help out.

Students from Red Bank Regional High School’s Black American Cultural Association were some of those who participated.

The 10 Red Bank Regional youth who helped serve lunch were participating in the Kindness and Justice Challenge 2001.

That initiative was developed by the Do Something Fund, a national nonprofit community development organization.

The purpose is to inspire young people to honor the memory of King by having them get involved in community activities.

The student members of the association also had been conducting a coat drive for the last two weeks. That clothing was donated to Lunch Break and is scheduled to be distributed to needy families and individuals in the area.

"We’re trying to change the culture here," explained C. Arthur Albrizio, the school’s principal. "We’re trying to get the kids more active in the community, especially on a day like this."

If "YOU" or someone you know can help Lunch Break by "giving of their time and expertise" and writing grants to help this compassionate organization to obtain the funds they need to continue to serve, please email your contact information to:

 philanthropy2003@aol.com.

 

 

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