JOSEPH McCOMB SR. was born on August 2, 1912 in Pennsylvania. He lived and worked as a grocery clerk in Pennsylvania before coming to New Jersey.
Joseph McComb was active in the labor movement in Camden. By 1944 he was the vice-president of the Central Labor Union, which had its headquarters at the Labor Temple Building, 538 Broadway. In time he rose to the presidency of the organization.
In 1945 Joseph McComb was appointed chairman of the Board of Commissioners of the Housing Authority of the City of Camden. During his tenure two family developments, Roosevelt Manor and McGuire Gardens, were built. A senior-citizens high rise building, John F. Kennedy Tower, was also erected. Other projects such as the Royal Court townhouses and the Mickle Tower and Westfield Tower senior-citizens high-rises were "incubated" on his watch. Most people that this writer has heard from state that Camden's public housing was well run and were good places to live under McComb's administration.
Joseph McComb led the Central Labor Union and was also president of Retail Clerks Union Local 1060 for many years. He was a regular participant at Labor Day cermonies in Pennsauken, New Jersey at the tomb of Peter McGuire, the "founder of Labor Day", who lived for a time in Camden.
Joseph McComb Sr. became the center of much controversy during the late 1960s. After leaving the Housing Authority he was appointed to the Board of Commissioners of the Delaware River Port Authority, serving as late as 1977. He lived at 3837 Myrtle Avenue in East Camden. His neighbors included a number of labor and political leaders, including Joseph Nettleton, John L. Morrisey, and William "Pat" Corbett.
Joseph McComb Sr passed away in April of 1980, survived by his wife, the former Margaret Keiffer, his son, Joseph McComb Jr., and a grandchild.
Joseph McComb Jr. served with the Camden Police Department before retiring in the 1970s due to a heart condition. Last a resident of Gloucester City, he died in November of 1980. Margaret Keiffer McComb joined her son and husband in October of 1985.
Joseph McComb was vilified in the 1960s for demolishing slums and for alleged non-integration of public housing facilities that the Housing Authority operated. Looking back in time more than 40 years afterwards, the "contributions" of those who assailed Mr. McComb are deserving of complete and unquestionable condemnation, while McComb's pragmatic approach to conditions in the city merit an honest look. While the "social activists" with a few exceptions have for the most part a> left the city still patting themselves on the back for the damage they've done, b> gone to their last reward, or c> have been discredited through criminal activity, thousands of families who were driven out of Camden still mourn the city that was taken away from them. Has Camden gotten better or worse since the 1960s? Who did more lasting good for more people over a longer time, Joe McComb or his critics?
Camden Courier-Post * May 24, 1966
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