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.