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Former Elizabeth School Board Member, Fighter for Community/Civil Rights Dies at 83


Emmy Winning ABC-7NY journalist NJ Burkett has announced his father's death, a fighter for community/civil rights and Elizabeth, New Jersey public servant. 

In a statement released by NJ Burkett Friday evening around 11 p.m., Burkett said the following: 

"It is with great sadness that I share with you the news that my father, Newton Jones Burkett, Jr has passed away. He died suddenly on Wednesday at the age of 83.

My dad was an intellectual and an altruist with an unfailing moral compass and an abiding commitment to social justice. My upbringing is one of the greatest gifts I will ever receive and his lessons—both explicit and by example—guide me every day.


He grew up in McKinney, Texas and graduated from Rice University with a degree in religion and philosophy. He helped organize sit-ins in Houston before turning his back on the segregated South and moving to the Northeast, where he would marry my mom and start a family in Elizabeth, New Jersey.

My dad found ways to support community empowerment in Elizabeth and take a stand against injustice throughout his life. Whether it was finding financing for minority-owned businesses or committing himself to the cause of civil rights.


He marched in the streets of Newark (carrying me on his shoulders) after the riots in the late 1960s. And he lost his seat on the Elizabeth Board of Education in the 1990s after he advocated changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples' Day on the public school calendar.

He loved my career choice and was my biggest cheerleader and hardly ever missed a newscast. He adored his five grandchildren and reveled in their interests and their accomplishments.

Although he spent much of his own career as a banker, his real love was teaching. In his retirement, he taught research and writing at Kean University, where he earned his Master's degree, Seton Hall University and New Jersey City University.

After my dad suffered his fatal heart attack, a doctor on the trauma team stepped into a small room off the Emergency Department at Trinitas Regional Medical Center, where my mom and I sat struggling to come to terms with what had just happened.

It's the same hospital where my father had served on the board of trustees for more than a decade.


"I was not Mr. Burkett's doctor today," he told us, "But I was one of his students at Kean University." He went on to explain how much my dad meant to him as a professor, how inspiring he was, and how he had fond memories of him, even twenty years later.

"I'm sure that I would not be the same man if it weren't for your dad." That's the thing, he had that effect on everyone.

My father was a relentlessly upbeat person, a spiritual man who believed in the inherent goodness in all of us.

It's his legacy and a path forward."


Our staff sends condolences to NJ and his family for losing a great man who touched so many lives, educated thousands and fought for the rights of people in  NJ, Union County and Elizabeth. 

Thank you, sir. 

RLS Metro Morning Crew