The City of Dreams: the Atlantic City Experience

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Atlantic City Housing Authority Records Collection – Stanley Holmes Village

The photographs in the collection are largely representative of Stanley Holmes Village, including images of its construction, groundbreaking and cornerstone laying ceremonies, and images of Stanley Holmes' first tenants moving into their new homes. Atlantic City was the first municipality in New Jersey to provide public housing to its constituents. The movement to establish public housing was initiated in 1933 with the organization of the Civic Committee for Better Housing - headed by Walter J. Buzby; Mrs. Warren Somers, Commissioner of the State Housing Authority; Naomi Craighead; Robert A. Watson, Manager of the Southern Division of the State Housing Authority; B.J. Dudnick, State Housing Authority; and Timothy J. Kelly. The Civic Committee for Better Housing produced a social and economic study of housing in the City and enlisted the support of the Atlantic City Real Estate Board and the Chamber of Commerce to further its platform. The Civic Committee for Better Housing was successful in championing its cause; in October of 1934, a site bounded by Adriatic, Baltic, Kentucky and Illinois Avenues was identified for the creation of Atlantic City's first public housing complex. In April of 1935, Mayor Harry Bacharach condemned the buildings that existed on the proposed site. The thirteen property owners were each paid 246,250 dollars and the one hundred and sixty families living on the site were relocated to other residences. The architects J. Vaughn Mathis, Herman Turon and Vivian Smith were hired to develop the city's first public housing buildings - Stanley Holmes Village. In November of 1935, the city held ceremonies, attended by Governor Harold Hoffman with principal speeches by Mayor Charles D. White, to commemorate the demolition of the dilapidated buildings that once stood between Adriatic, Baltic, Kentucky and Illinois Avenues. Foundations for Stanley Holmes Village were laid in March of 1936, and - at that time - 339 individuals applied for residency. On April 16, 1937 the first tenants moved into their homes. In 1937, Stanley Holmes Village consisted of sixteen, two- and three-story brick buildings grouped around two landscaped areas that formed eight quadrangles. In 1951, an extension built an additional fourteen buildings.


Barbara Hudgins Papers

Barbara Hudgins donated these papers to the Atlantic City Free Public Library in November 2013. They include personal papers, as well as papers created for her job as a councilmember. There are autobiographical statements, news clippings, photographs, minutes from City Council committees and other types of organizations. Barbara Ann Lyon Hudgins, a native of Durham, North Carolina, was the first African American woman elected to the Atlantic City Council. She served as an at-large councilmember from 1990 to 2001. She was also the first female elected as a councilmember at-large. On the City Council, she chaired the Public Works Committee, the Planning and Development Committee, and the Cable Advisory Committee. She encouraged women to become politically involved, creating The Pink Brigade, political action committee in 1993. She also chaired the Atlantic City Democratic Committee and coordinated local efforts for state and national political campaigns. In addition she co-founded the African American Alliance of Atlantic County in 1998. The daughter of Leonard and Mable Lyon, she was born in 1937. Barbara attended public school in Durham and graduated from North Carolina Central University in 1959 with a Bachelor of Science in Math. After graduation she traveled to Atlantic City, New Jersey, where she met her future husband, Eugene “Gene” Hudgins, a city resident and Harlem Globetrotters basketball player. They had a daughter, Gena, and later divorced. Mrs. Hudgins taught high school math, first for one year in North Carolina, and then at Atlantic City High School from 1962 to 1992. She served on various local and statewide committees to evaluate and improve high school math education. As president of the Atlantic City Education Association, she negotiated salary increases for the teachers. She was recognized as an outstanding educator on multiple occasions, including as Teacher of the Year in 1989 by the Atlantic City Education Association. After her tenure on City Council, Mrs. Hudgins continued her community involvement. She lobbied for the expansion of the Dolphins football facility, supported the Brigantine-Connector project, and brought in specialists to ensure an accurate 2000 Census county of Atlantic City. She was awarded a Medal of Freedom by the New Jersey Conference of the NAACP in 2006 and a“Lifetime of Service” recognition from the Atlantic City Free Public Library in 2015.


Mayor James Usry Papers

The first Black mayor of Atlantic City, an educator, and professional basketball player, James Leroy Usry was born in Athens, Georgia on February 2, 1922. His family moved to Atlantic City, New Jersey when he was a child, where he attended the Atlantic City schools, graduating from Atlantic City High School in 1939. During World War II, Usry was drafted into the US Army with the 92nd Infantry Division in Italy and Africa, with the segregated “Black Buffaloes” unit. Nicknamed “Big Jim” for his height at 6 feet, 4 inches, Usry played professional basketball for Renaissance Big Five Inc., on teams like the New York Renaissance and Dayton Rens from 1947 to 1951. Upon returning to Atlantic City, he began a long career in education, first teaching at Central Junior High School. Later, he was the principal of Indiana Avenue School, the Director of School and Community Services, Director of Elementary Education, Affirmative Action Officer, and the Assistant Superintendent of the Atlantic City Public Schools. Usry brought decades of leadership experience in the military and schools to the political arena when he first ran for mayor of Atlantic City in 1982. He lost by a close margin to Michael Matthews but ran and won the mayoral seat in a recall election in 1984. He was reelected in 1986. In 1989, as he was seeking reelection again, he was caught in a State Police sting and accused of conspiracy, official misconduct and bribery, later called COMSERV. As mayor, he led the completion of many projects throughout Atlantic City. These included the creation of housing units in the Northeast Inlet, daycare centers, housing complexes, and youth centers. He advocated for housing, education and the health of the Atlantic City community, often standing up to the casino and hotel owners whose interests were often contrary to those of the city's residents.


Newsome Family Collection

Clifford James "C.J." Newsome's life was dedicated to promoting Atlantic City tourism throughout the country, especially tourism to the often-overlooked black communities in the Northside. Born in Augusta, Georgia, he moved to Atlantic City in the 1920s. In 1929, he was a founder of the Atlantic City Board of Trade (ACBT), which became the Black Chamber of Commerce, promoting Atlantic City as a place for African-American conventions. He successfully brought African-American businesses and conventions to the resort where dollars were spent on the Northside, far from Boardwalk hotels from which they were barred. The ACBT lost most of its influence with the advent of the civil rights movement as businesses along the beach opened up to diverse clientele. Though the Board of Trade's influence waned after desegregation, Newsome kept it running until his death, always seeking to attract more people to his hometown. He married first, Carrie E. (1903-1975), and second, Gertrude. He and his family operated Newsome's Guest House at 126 North Indiana Avenue, one of many Northside rooming houses that welcomed African-American guests. In addition, Mr. Newsome worked for Atlantic City Mayor Thomas Taggart in the 1940s and for the city Police Department. A leader of St. James A.M.E. Church, he belonged to many civic and fraternal organizations. He served as District Deputy Grand Exalted Ruler of the Elks for 19 years. In 1941, over 100,000 people lined up on the city's Northside to see an Elks Parade, a product of Newsome's efforts.


Walls Family Photograph Collection

The Walls Family was one of the most prominent African American families in Atlantic City in the early 20th century. George H. Walls was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in 1862. He arrived in Atlantic City some time before 1881 and established himself as an entrepreneur and community leader. As early as 1896, Walls opened the first – and for a long time only – African American owned business on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City: Walls’ Bathhouse located at 2617 Boardwalk at Texas Avenue. Walls’ Bathhouse was an inclusive business and catered to both white and black patrons. In addition to being a businessman, Walls was a highly involved member of the community. He was a member of the Knights of Pythias, a founder of the Jethro Memorial Presbyterian Church, and in 1894 organized the group of individuals who created the Northside YMCA. One of Walls’ most significant contributions to Atlantic City history was in the field of education reform. In 1881, Walls created the Literary Society through the Price Memorial AME Zion Church in Atlantic City. The Literary Society lobbied for improved education for black children in the City, with the assumption that black children were better served by black educators. The Literary society pushed for a resolution to appoint a black teacher within the city, and in 1896 Hattie E. Merritt was hired. In 1900, the school board voted for separate education for black students in the primary levels, initiating the controversial practice of racial segregation in Atlantic City’s school system. George H. Walls married Lucille (Lucy) Christmas of Warrington, North Carolina. They had four children, Carrie Belle, Ruth, Ada Adeline and George H. Jr. Ada Walls married John R. Major, a mortician. She was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, and taught both in Durham, North Carolina and Atlantic City, New Jersey. After retiring from her career as a teacher, she worked for the Atlantic County Public Health Services. Ruth Walls married James Martin and lived in New York City. George H. Jr. served in the Army during World War II and died in Connecticut. No further biographical information for Lucille or Carrie Belle is available. Other notable relatives include James Christmas, Lucille’s nephew and an Atlantic City police officer, who guarded the “Spirit of Saint Louis” during its historic stop in Atlantic City. George H. Walls died in New York City on October 25, 1954.



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