Alfred
R.
Pierce


ALFRED R. PIERCE is the son of Russell and Viola Pierce. He grew up in Camden and graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in 1939. Upon graduation from the College of South Jersey (commonly known today as Rutgers-Camden) he enlisted in the United States Army Air Force, and served as a pilot on 51 missions in the African, Sicilian, and Italian campaigns.

Upon his discharge from the service in the fall of 1944, with the rank of captain, Alfred Pierce entered Dickinson Law School, where he was elected vice-president of his class and won scholastic honors on the dean's list. He graduated from Dickinson in February of 1948 and served his legal clerkship with the firm of Carroll, Taylor, and Bischoff, and was admitted to the New Jersey bar the same year. He then took a position as an associate in the law firm of former Assistant Prosecutor Anthony Mitchell. During this period he also wed his wife Barbara, and moved to a house 

in East Camden at 603 North 34th Street. The 1956 New Jersey Bell Telephone Directory shows his address as 3215 Westfield Avenue. The 1959 edition lists him at 420 Hillside Avenue. He appears to have moved out of Camden after his term as mayor ended, although he did maintain a law office in the city for many years.

In January of 1950 Mayor George Brunner named Alfred Pierce to serve a  three-year term on the Camden Board of Education, replacing Dr. Ethan A. Lang who had resigned. Dr. Lang was concurrently serving as City Comptroller and President of the School Board prior to his resignation. He later served as solicitor for the School Board of the City of Camden.

On August 4, 1959 Alfred Pierce became a charter member of the the Legal Eagles Association, now know as the Lawyer Pilots Bar Association, a group of lawyers who also were pilots. He also was a member of the Trimble Lodge, No. 117 Free and Accepted Masons, which has roots in Camden going back to the 19th century. He had also been active in the YMCA in Camden.

Unseating long-time Mayor George Brunner in 1959, Alfred Pierce was Mayor of the City of Camden until 1969, when he was succeeded by Joseph Nardi. He had run for the State Senate in 1967 and had been defeated by Republican candidate Frank Italiano

A lot could be said about the Pierce administration. One accurate measure of Alfred Pierce's performance as Mayor is that property values fell every year after 1960. Alfred Pierce passed away on September 14, 2005 in Moorestown NJ. He was buried at Harleigh Cemetery in Camden.


Camden Board of Education - 1955
Around the Table:

Victor Levinson
James O'Neill
May A. Jones
John J. Horn
Samuel J. T. French Jr.
Joseph C. Ragone
Alfred R. Pierce

Harry R. Janice
J. Maxwell Griffin
Eugene E. Wales
John Odorisio
Dr. Leon Neulen


Camden Board of Education - 1957
Around the Table:

Eluria Milliken
Victor Levinson
May A. Jones
John J. Horn
Alfred R. Pierce
Samuel J. T. French Jr.
Joseph C. Ragone
Anthony R. Catrambone
Harry R. Janice
J. Maxwell Griffin
Eugene E. Wales
John Odorisio

Click on Image
to Enlarge

The Political Career and Mayoralty of Alfred Pierce

In the 1950s, in response to community dissatisfaction with the decline in both city services and the way that Camden was being run by Mayor Brunner and his Democratic organization, Alfred Pierce formed Citizens United to Save Our City. Save Our City embraced the predominantly black, Italian, Jewish, and Hispanic voters of North and East Camden who had been ignored by Mayor Brunner over the years as his power base became increasingly isolated in the Fairview section of the city. 

In 1959, with support from the Hispanic community, Alfred Pierce defeated Mayor Brunner and ended his 23 year term as mayor. The Save Our City ticket also took four of the five seats on the city commission. Alfred Pierce initiated a city charter change, and in 1961 the city changed its from of government from the commissioner system, to the city council system under which it operates today. Pierce became the first Mayor under the new charter in 1961, and was re-elected in 1965. His greatest success may have been forging coalitions that brought black an Hispanic members to Camden's City Council for the first time. 

The changing faces of leadership: Alfred R. Pierce is flanked by his parents, Russell and Viola, after he won re-election as mayor of Camden in 1965.

Courier-Post Photo

As Mayor, Alfred Pierce initiated a large number of projects in the hope of revitalizing Camden, but for the most part these did not come to fruition. His policy of demolition of entire neighborhoods led to the departure of many of Camden's remaining middle- and upper-class citizens. While the Pierce administration could count a few successes such as the Northgate high-rise apartments and the expansion of the Rutgers campus in North Camden, these successes came at the expense of the residents and neighborhoods which were disrupted to make way for these and other projects. Mayor Pierce also failed to stem the flight of manufacturing jobs from Camden, and with that, the population of Camden declined by approximately 15,000 from 1960 to 1970. Property values fell every year after 1960. The term of Alfred Pierce as Mayor ended in 1969, when the Democratic City organization was able to elect Joseph M. Nardi Jr. as Mayor.


Camden Courier-Post - June 10, 1960

Pierce Is Ousted As Safety Head

By LEE STEW ART

 Amid cheers and boos from spectators, Mayor Pierce was switched from director of public safety to public affairs director at a commission meeting Thursday night.

Pierce lost control of the police and fire departments by a 4·1 vote. The motion to divest the mayor of the public safety department was made by Commissioner Abbott and seconded by Commissioner Garrity. Pierce cast the lone dissenting vote against the change.

At 8:25 p. m. after the commission had gone through the routine business, Commissioner Shepp handed a sheaf of papers to City Clerk John T. Odorisio. Odorisio started shuffling the papers when Shepp told him to read them in the order he gave them to him.

Cheers, Boos

The resolutions read by the clerk first changed the duties of the various commissioners. The more than 500 spectators cheered then booed as Pierce cast the only dissenting vote.

Then Odorisio read the resolution which then transferred four of the commissioners.

Garrity, who was public affairs director, was named top succeed Pierce as public safety director in charge of the police and fire departments.

The public affairs directorship was a sharply curtailed one as contrasted to what Garrity had. Assigned to the department of public affairs was the director's office, the revaluation program, visiting nurses, public assistance, the Camden County Historical Society, charitable institutions, the Parking Authority, Civil Defense and celebration of public events, anniversaries and holidays.

Garrity retained the health department, sanitary control and cemeteries.

Taken away from the department of public affairs and given to other commissioners was the plumbing inspector, municipal court, Municipal Hospital, Convention Hall, city clerk, elections, city property, bureau of tax title perfection and redemption, municipal welfare and Radio Station WCAM.

Commissioner Abbott was designated director of the department of public works; Italiano was named director of public parks and property, while Shepp retained the department of revenue and finance. Pierce again cast the lone dissenting vote.

Declines to Make Statement

At the close of the meeting a Courier-Post reporter asked Commissioner Italiano why he had I voted to strip Mayor Pierce.

"I'd rather not make any statement at this time," Italiano replied. "I may make a statement later."

The reporter pointed out that whatever the commissioner had to say should be in today's newspaper. Italiano repeated:

"I'd rather not have anything to say right now. I may have a statement in a day or two."

Commissioner Garrity left the meeting room while the reporter was talking to Italiano.

Contacted Again

Again, this morning, a reporter contacted Italiano and asked him if he would explain his vote. He replied:

"No comment."

Commissioner Garrity, reached at his home today, also was asked if he had any statement to make concerning his vote to strip Mayor Pierce.

"I haven't prepared any state­ment as yet," Garrity said. "I will have one later. I am figuring it out in my mind."

 Solicitor Quits

Following the changes, Michael J. Piarulli, city solicitor who would have reported to Shepp under the realignment, resigned. He previously was under Pierce's office.

"I cannot, in good conscience, continue to work as city solicitor in a department headed by Commissioner Shepp," Piarulli said. "I have nothing against Shepp. In due fairness, I do not feel I could do justice to the job."

The meeting was thrown open to the public and many persons present spoke against the action of the commissioners in taking the department of public safety from Pierce. 


Camden Courier-Post
June 10, 1960

Overflow crowd of more than 500 spectators jammed city commission chambers Thursday night at meeting which stripped Mayor Pierce of his duties as director of public safety and made him director of public affairs.


Camden Courier-Post - June 10, 1960
Quits Post

CITY COUNSEL Michael J. Piarulli makes speech of resignation at meeting of city commission.

Meeting is Conducted Orderly
b
y Mayor  Despite Difficulties
Greeted by 500 Amid Applause And Cat-Calls

Mayor Pierce was determined to run an orderly meeting and he did Thursday night when his fellow commissioners stripped him of his duties as public safety director.

When Pierce entered the commission chambers, bulging at the seams by an overflow crowd of more than 500, he was greeted by a mixture of applause and cat­calls. When it became evident that he was faced with difficulties in maintaining order, Pierce sharply rapped the gavel and told the crowd:

"I ask you to give every commissioner the opportunity to conduct the business of this meeting.

"I know there are a lot of police officers here. I want them to exercise their judgment and see that this meeting is orderly." 

Rumor Spreads

The crowds started gathering early for the meeting with many police officers who had been assigned to the protection  

of Vice President Nixon in the commission chambers. At 7.40 p. m. the chambers were half-filled as rumors spread throughout the city of an impending change in the structure of the city commison.

Among the early arrivals were Thomas Watson, register of deeds, and his deputy, J. James Hainsworth.

Commissioners Abbott and Shepp entered the chambers about 7:50 p. m. with Commissioners Italiano and Garrity coming in about 7:59 p. m. Pierce did not come in until 8.05 p. m. leading to conjecture in the crowd as to whether or not he was going to show up.

Mixed Reaction

Each time Pierce cast a no vote on the realignment of responsibilities for the various commissioners, there was a mixture of cheers and booing.

On the vote concerning the change of duties of the department of public safety Pierce inadvertently cast a yes vote. He quickly corrected himself after briefly laughing.

"It's easy to be preoccupied by what's going on here tonight," he, said.

Following the action which made him director of public affairs, Pierce again was forced to call for order. He interrupted Michael J. Piarulli, city counsel, in the midst of his speech of resignation when the crowd became too noisy.

"If I have to call police officers in I'll do so," Pierce said. "I'm not police commissioner now, but if anyone wants to try, me, let them do so."

Pierce asked the policemen in the audience to stand up. He asked their aid in maintaining order and asked that they put out of the meeting any noisy or disorderly person.


Camden Courier-Post - June 10, 1960

Commission Department Assignments

This is how the departments were assigned to the commissioners Thursday night:

Mayor Pierce, director of public affairs: the director's office, revaluation program, visiting nurses, public assistance, Camden County Historical Society, charitable institutions, parking authority, civil defense and' celebration of public events, anniversaries and holidays.

Commissioner Garrity, director of public safety: the director's office, police bureau, fire bureau, electrical bureau, municipal motors, health department; sanitary control and cemeteries,

Commissioner Italiano, director of, parks and public property: director's office, public parks, playgrounds, street lighting, bureau of smoke control, municipal welfare, municipal hospital, municipal court, sealer of weights and measures, transportation inspector, board of Alcoholic Beverage Control, public libraries, city baseball league, municipal market, Station WCAM and Convention Hall.

Commissioner Abbott, director of public works: director's office, city engineer, bureau of highways, bureau of sewers and sewage treatments, streets, bureau of animal welfare, water bureau, plumbing inspector and South Jersey Port Commission.

Commissioner Shepp, director of revenue and finance: director's office, city comptroller, annual audit, assessor's office, city counsel, city property, bureau of tax title perfection and redemption, repairs to tax title lien properties, tax office, printing and advertising, publicity and public welfare, plan­ning and housing redevelopment, stationery and supplies, housing and rehabilitation, purchasing bureau, building inspector, city clerk and elections.


Camden Courier-Post - June 10, 1960

Borstein to Quit As Deputy Police, Firemen Aide

Isadore Borstein today announced he plans to resign as deputy commissioner of police and firemen as an aftermath of Mayor Pierce's loss of those departments by action of the four other city commissioners.

Borstein said he would tender his resignation today, and is considering also resigning as deputy mayor for which he receives $4 a year. Before acting on the latter, Borstein said, he will first discuss the matter with Mayor Pierce.


Trenton Evening Times - April 28, 1963

Click on Images for PDF File of Complete Article

Alfred R. Pierce
Edwin Bedell
Albert Hughes
Cooper Hospital
George Pearsall
Washington Street
Camden Police K-9 Unit



George Baxter - John Gaffney - Alfred Pierce - Ray Meadows - Parkside - North Camden
Bradley Avenue - Cedar Street - Sycamore Street - Madeline Saracino


Camden Fire Department
First Annual Retirement Dinner
May 3, 1965
 William T. Cahill - Alfred R. Pierce - Edward V. Michalak
Keith Kauffman - Rev. W.A. Gwynne -
Edward R. MacDowell
Howard W. Ways
- George L. Boone - Isaac Muns - John C. Voll John T. Clemmens - Harrison B. Pike - Albert A. Weller
Austin E. Marks - Edward Y. Scott - John W. Yates

Click on Images to Enlarge

1965


Camden Courier-Post - July 5, 1967

 41st Annual Affair

Crippled Children’s Party Tomorrow

The Crippled Children’s Committee of Camden Elks Lodge 293 will sponsor its 41st annual party for crippled children tomorrow.         

S.S. Norcross 3rd, exalted ruler of the lodge, and Edward J. Griffith, president of the Crippled Children’s Committee, said the children will board buses at 10:30 AM at the Elks' home, 807 Cooper Street.

First stop will be Sergeant Ray Smith's home on Lake Renee, where the, children will have their annual picnic lunch. Following lunch they will ride horses from the Persian Acres Dude Ranch operated by County Detective Robert Di Persia.

Erial Fire Company will pick up the children for a ride to the Nike Missile Base in Erial, then onto Clementon Lake Park. Following dinner in the Chick Barn at Silver Lake Inn, the youngsters will return to the Elks' Home.

Among those helping Sgt. Ray celebrate his 72nd birthday at Silver Lake Inn later in the evening will be former Judge Samuel P. Orlando, Congressman John E. Hunt, Jersey Joe Walcott, Mayor Alfred Pierce and state Senator Frederick J. Scholz and recently appointed Prosecutor A. Donald Bigley.


Camden Courier-Post - September 16, 2005

PIERCE, ALFRED R.
Former Mayor of the City of Camden from 1959 through 1969, died on September 14, 2005 at the Masonic Home of New Jersey in Burlington. Mr. Pierce was born in Camden on October 21, 1920, the son of the late Russell and Viola Pierce, and brother of the late Mabel Rob
inson.

He attended Woodrow Wilson High School where he met and later married his high school sweetheart, Barbara A. Markert. After graduating in 1939, he worked at Campbell Soup Company as a timekeeper while attending the College of South Jersey (known today as Rutgers in Camden). As WWII broke out, he enlisted in the US Army Air Force, achieved the rank of captain and piloted 51 missions in the African, Sicilian and Italian campaigns. After the war, he attended Dickinson Law School and graduated in 1948. He and his wife, Barbara, moved back to Camden where he practiced law, became a member of the School Board, and later ran for city government under the Save Our City Campaign. 

Mr. Pierce was a champion for social justice in the 1960's and continued that interest throughout his life. Mr. Pierce, nicknamed 'Red' at an early age because of his red hair, advocated fearlessly on behalf of others. After leaving public service, he re-entered the practice of law and world business. He also is the author of a book, 'It is Finished,' which approaches the Holy Scriptures with a legal curiosity.

Mr. Pierce is survived by his beloved wife of 63 years, Barbara; their three children, Barbara Pierce Farmer and her husband Lee, of Boulder, Colorado, Debra Star Pierce of San Anselmo, California, and Alfred R. Pierce, Jr. and his wife, Judy, of Moorestown, New Jersey. and three grandchildren, Alfred III, Brienne and Gianna, all of Moorestown, New Jersey. 'Red' will be greatly missed and live on in the hearts of his family and friends around the world. The family would like to extend their deepest gratitude and appreciation to the wonderful people who helped care for Mr. Pierce during his last years spent at the Masonic Home.

Relatives and friends are invited to attend a visitation on Sunday evening, September 18th from 6:00-8:00pm at SNOVER/GIVNISH of Cinnaminson, 1200 Rte. 130 North. Mr. Pierce's nephew, Rev. Frank Robinson, will officiate at a memorial service on Monday September 19th at 11:00am, followed by the internment at Harleigh Cemetery, Camden, New Jersey.


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Sources:
Camden Courier-Post January 27, 1950; June 10, 1960; September 16, 2005
Camden County, New Jersey- The Making of a Metropolitan Community 1626-2000 Jeffrey M. Dorwart - Rutgers University Press 2001