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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.