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Biography Of Reverend Dr. S. Howard Woodson Jr.
(celebrated life 1912-1999)

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S. Howard Woodson, Jr., combined his calling as a Minister and Pastor with his secondary career as a public servant. Although he achieved much as a public servant, he considered his calling as a minister to be the greatest honor any one could have.

 

The Reverend Dr. Woodson was well known throughout the state of New Jersey. His various activities and positions kept him involved him with a variety of individuals and groups. As a preacher, a Civil Rights leader, a legislator, a former Speaker of the House, a former member of the Governor's Cabinet, and as a Director of the Division of Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action, he was called upon to speak around the country.

 

Dr. Woodson was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he attended public school . He graduated from Cheyney University ( formerly Cheyney State College with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education.  In 1940, he became the first graduate student to matriculate into the newly-developed School of Divinity at Morehouse College. While in Atlanta, he became the first Seminarian to serve as an Assistant to the Pastor of the famous Wheat Street Baptist Church. Wheat Street had one of the largest Baptist congregations in the nation. While serving under Dr. William Holmes Borders, he became Director of Worship. He received the first graduate degree (Bachelor of Divinity) ever offered at Morehouse. He went on to do his postgraduate work in Sociology at Atlanta University.

 

Dr. Woodson was ordained to the Gospel Ministry at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in 1941. In 1944, he was called as Pastor of the Grace Temple Baptist Church in Lawnside, New Jersey, where he remained for two years. In March of 1946, he began his Pastorate of the Shiloh Baptist Church of Trenton, New Jersey.

 

After moving to Trenton, Reverend Woodson became actively involved in the civil rights movement; and Shiloh soon became a center of civil rights activity.  He was elected President of the local branch of the N.A.A.C.P.  He was also elected as Chairman of the segregated board of the Carver Y.M.C.A.  As such, he fought to have Carver granted independent status by the National Y.M.C.A. - which led to it establishing its own branch, and removing itself from the supervision of the white dominated central "Y". This was a first for the nation.

 

In 1960, Reverend Woodson was elected President of the State Conference of the N.A.A.C.P. While President, he convinced New Jersey Governor, Richard Hughes, to convene the first state-wide housing conference dealing with the need for minority home ownership and the elimination of "block busting".. The conference resulted in the passage of some of the most progressive housing legislation ever enacted by any legislative body in the nation.  Block Busting was prohibited by law and the banks were mandated to grant mortgages to minority applicants who met minimal requirements.

 

Pastor Woodson also led the State Conference in a fight to increase the number of Black Police Officers in various municipalities throughout the State of New Jersey. This was a struggle he continued when he became the Chief Executive Officer of the Department of Civil Service ( now the Department of Personnel).

 

POLITICAL CAREER
Believing he could be more effective working within the political system, rather than protesting from outside the system, Reverend Woodson ran for public office in 1955 . He and a group of friends formed the "Political Action Council," which developed into one of the most powerful grass roots political organizations in the state. "PAC", inspired the formation of similar minority political groups throughout New Jersey. Working within the Democratic Party, the combined groups became the minority arm of the Democratic Party.

 

In 1959, Reverend Woodson was appointed to the Trenton Charter Study Commission, and in 1962, he was nominated by the group for the Office of Council-at-Large in the City of Trenton. In June 1962, he became the first African American elected to office in either the City of Trenton or Mercer County.

 

While serving as Council-at-Large, he was encouraged by Governor Hughes, to seek the post of Assemblyman for the 13th Legislative District.  He would go on to hold this office for eight consecutive terms.  Two weeks after being inducted into the State Legislature, Reverend Woodson rose on the floor to challenge a bill which would have reduced the housing requirements mandating decent, safe, and sanitary housing for migrant workers. His speech convince his fellow legislators that the bill should not be passed. Thus began his reputation as a skillful debator and orator on legislative issues. During his first year in the Legislature the Speaker of the House asked if he would deliver the Lincoln Day address. When he had completed his message, his colleagues unanimously voted to have the speech incorporated into the permanent record of the Legislature. This was the first time in New Jersey history that a speech was voted into the Legislative Minutes.

 

The political action group, which he led, began to press for the appointment of minorities to policy-making positions in both State and County government. Their efforts resulted in the first African-Americans being appointed to the positions of; Counsel to the Governor, County Treasurer, and Director of the County Division on Aging.

 

During his tenure as a Legislator, Dr. Woodson was appointed as the first African-American, to serve as Chairman of a ranking Legislative Committee. In 1968, he was elected by his Democratic peers as Minority Leader of the Lower House. According to a national research group, this was the first time in history, that a Black was elevated to such a position. In 1972, he was elected as the Assistant Democratic Leader of the House, making him the first African-American since Reconstruction to serve in both posts. The Speaker of the New Jersey State Assembly is second in line to serve as Acting Governor.   Dr. Woodson held the post of Acting Governor of the State, longer than any other minority in history. As Speaker, he increased the Legislative staffs for both parties in the House, and appointed the first African-American to serve as an Assistant Legislative Director.

 

He was the prime sponsor of the Bill which created the Office of the Public Advocate. The Public Advocate monitors the activity of all departments in State government, and is considered an advocate for the people. He was also a sponsor of the Bill creating the Department of Community Affairs, which is designed to aid municipalities and counties.

 

In 1972, Rev. Woodson was appointed by Governor Brendan Byrne as a Cabinet Officer to head the Department of Civil Service. While in that position, he negotiated with Rutgers, the State University, to establish a training course for entry-level State health care workers. This effort resulted in a one hundred percent (100%) increase in permanent employment for minority workers. He also changed the entry requirements for police and fire applicants, resulting in another great increase for minorities in public safety positions.

 

Before leaving his post as the Head of the Department of Civil Service, he encouraged the Governor to issue an Executive Order creating the first Division of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (EEO/AA) in the United State. It eventually received legislative approval and remains a permanent Division in State Government.

 

During his tenure as a Cabinet Officer, Rev. Woodson proposed a massive Civil Service reform. In 1982, the incoming Governor requested that he continue to serve as a member of the Merit Review Board (formerly the Civil Service Commission). He remained in that position and served longer than any other citizen.  In 1990, Governor Florio appointed Rev. Woodson to serve as Director of the Division of EEO/AA, a post from which he retired in February 1994.

 

 

 

PASTORAL WORK

While still in the Legislature, Dr. Woodson led Shiloh's congregation in a building program that resulted in the erection of a new worship center, making Shiloh the first minority group to erect two new church buildings in a single century.  Because of the respect he gained, a local bank granted Shiloh the largest mortgage ever made to a local church congregation. Their only requirement was that Rev. Woodson not resign from his pastoral responsibilities for the term of the mortgage.

 

Shiloh, carried out it former motto, " The Church of the Open Door" by welcoming various community groups to meet in its facilities. When racial tensions erupted in the Trenton, clergy of all races met at Shiloh before going out into the community to foster racial harmony. As a result of his personal involvement during these times of racial distress, Rev. Woodson was cited by the New Jersey State Legislature for helping to bring calm back to the City.

 

Under Reverend Woodson's leadership the Church opened its doors to senior citizens a luncheon program and a pre-school program, which was sponsored by a local anti-poverty organization. Under the sponsorship of its newly designed Mission Outreach Program, Shiloh organized a Clean Neighborhood Drive and a Neighborhood Get Acquainted program.

 

In 1989, the congregation approved Reverend Woodson's recommendation to launch the "Shiloh 2000" program, which focused on the physical and spiritual growth of our church, into the year 2000.  

 

Reverend Dr. S. Howard Woodson Jr.

Audio Sermon Archives

(click the Sermon title to listen)

April 24, 1988 Numbers 32:23 "Relentless Pursuit"
July 2, 1995 Luke 10:25 "Three Attitudes on the Jericho Road"
April 28, 1985 Luke 16:19 "A Plea From Hell"
January 7, 1996 Psalm 84:10 "Handling Your Rathers"
May 28, 1989 Genesis 12:10 "When The Godley Slip"
January 2, 1994 Psalm 23 "Facing An Unknown Journey"
November 1, 1992   "Worshiping A Stump"
November 1972   "A Greater Glory" 
September 27, 1987  

"Faith Under Pressure"

October 4, 1992   "The Night God Broke Into Prison"

 

Songs

"Amen" * "Power In The Blood"

 

 

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