Montclair is mourning an incredible loss today as Montclair NAACP shared the loss the organization’s longtime, legendary leader:
It is with a heavy heart that we share the sad news of the transition of our Leader and Friend Albert Pelham. Mr Pelham was a fearless freedom fighter for Civil Rights, Education and Social Justice. He was a tireless advocate for generations of families for the Greater Montclair Community. As the long serving President of the Montclair NAACP as well as his leadership of the MAAHF and the Montclair Neighborhood Development Corporation, Mr Pelham was the bedrock of our Community. His Leadership, Vision and Strength is a loss to all of us that care for Social Justice.
“Today we lost our leader and dear friend, we will honor his legacy by pledging to continue the fight for Civil Rights and Social Justice” Roger Terry, 1st Vice President.
Funeral and Memorial Services are being planned by the Family, We will share details as soon as they become available.
A Legendary Leader
“Today Essex County and Montclair lost a great community leader and friend with the passing of Montclair NAACP President Albert Pelham. Al was deeply engaged in the township and County he loved and was a welcoming presence at Essex County Glenfield Park. It was our honor to recognize him and the Montclair NAACP in 2019. Our deepest condolences go out to his family,” said Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. Thursday.
“Mr. Pelham was my coach, mentor and lifelong friend. I’ve known him since I was seven-years-old. We will never replace him. Montclair has lost a legend who only cared about helping others and making sure the less fortunate was supported. I can’t put in words what he meant to Montclair,” said Fourth Ward Councilor David Cummings.
The Montclair Public School District and all its families, students and staff are blessed to have known and worked with Mr. Albert Pelham. His magnanimous spirit, strength, compassion, and drive to always help families and students in need will live on through all the people he has touched. He never looked at a problem and turned his back. He worked tirelessly until he solved it and never expected any accolades. His service to our community spans decades, and I am so grateful that I had the chance to meet him and stand with him this past year. He truly is a man without a rival. Our deepest condolences go out to his family and friends. May his soul rest in peace.” — Dr. Jonathan Ponds, Superintendent Montclair Public Schools.
“It is with deep sadness that the Montclair Board of Education has learned of the passing of Mr. Al Pelham. Mr. Pelham was a supporter and advocate for the students and families of the Montclair Public Schools for many years. Especially the families in our community in need of a voice to ensure they receive an equitable and quality education for their children. His leadership in the Montclair Neighborhood Development Corporation (MNDC), Project Oasis, and as President of the Montclair Chapter of the NAACP, was instrumental in building an ongoing collaboration with the Montclair School District. We offer our Deepest Condolences and Prayers to his Family. — Latifah Jannah, Montclair Board of Education President.
“This is a difficult time and a tremendous loss to community. Albert Pelham was a leader in the community and his involvement in the community crossed over all different things, including activism on rent control, affordable housing and other issues to improve the Township,” said William Scott, member of the Montclair NAACP Branch, and chair of the Housing Committee and co-chair of the Montclair Housing Commission.
“I am saddened to learn of Al Pelham’s passing. Al Pelham dedicated his life to the fight for justice and equality. He was a pillar of our community and his loss is deeply felt. My heart goes out to his family, friends and my fellow Montclair NAACP members,” said Montclair Mayor Sean Spiller.
“My family and I are deeply saddened by the passing of President Pelham, a friend and leader. He was a relentless champion of justice and equal opportunity. His loving family and many friends are in my prayers. — Montclair Mayor Robert Jackson.
“I extend my sincere condolences to the family of Albert Pelham. The loss of Al – or Mr. Pelham as he was well known – will be felt by the entire Montclair community and beyond. His contributions as the Executive Director of the Montclair Neighborhood Development Corporation, and President of the Montclair NAACP and Montclair African American Heritage Foundation and the oversight of Glenfield Park cannot be overstated. Al was a man who loved his community in the same vein that he loved his family. He was my close personal friend and mentor, and I will miss him dearly. On behalf of my family, I offer prayers and well wishes to his wife Audrey and the entire Pelham family,” — Essex County Commissioner Brendan W. Gill.
“Al Pelham was a great leader for MNDC, and contributed so much to Montclair during his many years of service in our community. I will miss his advice and encouragement over the years, since the days I served as Mayor. My condolences to his family on this untimely passing,” said Councilor at Large Bob Russo.
“Al Pelham was a statesman and a giant who I had enormous respect for and who did more for this town than almost anyone else I can think of and didn’t seek credit for any of it,” said Councilor at Large Peter Yacobellis. “I appreciated all of the times we talked and he gave me his unfiltered perspective on so many different issues. I could count on him to tell me if I was doing something right or screwing it up. Gosh, what a loss. I’m so sorry to all those who loved and knew him far better than I did.”
Mr. Pelham’s family shared this message:
“It is with my deepest sorrow that I inform you of the passing of our beloved leader.
As you are aware, Al was a fighter and he would want us to be strong and carry on the legacy of MAAHF and anything in life. If there is a need for comfort, please feel free to speak to one another on our MAAHF committee. Arrangements and information will be sent a later time. “
The Township Council of Montclair also offered this joint statement of condolences:
A proud native and community leader in Montclair, Mr. Pelham’s contributions to his hometown leave an incredible legacy and void to fill.
A 1968 graduate of Montclair High School, Mr. Pelham graduated from Bloomfield College.
Known as “Alpine” and “Pine,” Mr. Pelham loved sports, people, and helping the less fortunate. This was exemplified by his work for two local non-profit agencies, the State Parent Advocacy Network (SPAN) and the Montclair Neighborhood Development Corporation (MNDC), and stewardship as the President of the Montclair NAACP and Montclair African American Heritage Foundation.
“Mr. Pelham was a part of my life since I was seven years old playing basketball at Glenfield Park,” Fourth Ward Councilor David Cummings said. “He was an inspiration, a source of support, and a straight shooter who helped thousands of people. We will never be able to replace him, but we must do all we can to keep his spirit and legacy alive.”
Mr. Pelham’s mission in life was to empower families and inform and involve professionals and other individuals in the healthy development and educational rights of children. Under Mr. Pelham’s leadership. MNDC endeavored to support disadvantaged individuals, youth, and families to achieve an improved quality of life through training, education, and advocacy.
One of his greatest personal achievements was starting a summer program called Project Oasis 24 years ago. The goal of Project Oasis is to work towards bridging the academic achievement gap for Montclair African American youth between the ages of 13 to 18, while creating a safe haven for them to learn and have fun. The objective was and continues to be the coalition between the Board of Education, the Police Department, Essex County, and The Township of Montclair. Since its conception, thousands of young people have participated in Project Oasis.
The Council offers its prayers of comfort to his wife Audrey and children Dwayne Jones and Rhonda (Charles) Fischer, and grandchildren Charles III and Cameron.
In March 2021, Pelham spoke at length with Baristanet on how the Montclair NAACP had risen to COVID-19 challenges and was finding new ways to help the community. Pelham also used his platform as president to speak out against police violence and call for reform. In addition to being a longtime president of the Montclair NAACP since 2012, Pelham was the executive director of the Montclair Neighborhood Development Corporation.