WEST ORANGE, NJ - Philip Thigpen, 87, Essex County Democratic Chairman and Elected Register of Deeds, passed away on Oct. 29.
Thigpen was long involved in Essex County politics and served as an East Orange councilman, and an Essex County Freeholder.
Thigpen's family issued a statement, saying:
"To the general public, Phil Thigpen was a political and government leader with perseverance who stopped at nothing to overcome racial boundaries and do what was best for the constituents who he represented. To his family, Phil Thigpen was a devoted husband and adoring father and grandfather who supported us with his limitless caring and love. We appreciate the outpouring of sympathy from the community during this difficult time and know that Phil would have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of people who have shared their condolences."
Local politicians reacted to the sudden news of Thigpen's passing with praise, noting that his ability to cross party lines had gained respect from Republicans and Democrats alike.
Essex County Executive Joe Divincenzo said, "Philip Thigpen was a remarkable individual who continually fought to break down racial barriers in the community and the Democratic Party. His competitive nature and drive as a national track champion in his high school and college years served him well in his various roles as a community advocate, public servant and elected official. A gentleman with a kind heart, he provided stability and solid leadership as our Essex County Democratic Chairman. He was a good friend, mentor and confidant, and someone I will miss greatly."
Senator Richard Codey (D-Essex/Morris) noted "He was a wonderful man. No one had a bag to say about him because there wasn’t a reason to say a bad word about him."
Both Mila Jasey (D-Essex/Morris) and John McKeon (D-Essex/Morris) attended a breakfast with Thigpen on Monday morning.
McKeon expressed his condolences in a short statement, commenting that he was "deeply saddened by the sudden passing of Chairman Thigpen. We were with him just yesterday at a delegation breakfast at which he was vigorously engaged in the important issues for our state. His commitiment to the Democrat Party and its principles was trumpted only by his love of family, who will be in my thoughts and prayers."
Mila Jasey shared her surprise at Thigpen's sudden passing in a statement, remarking, "I was saddened to learn of the passing of Chairman Phil Thigpen. We were just with him at our monthly Essex County delegation breakfast meeting on Monday in South Orange; The Chairman's wise counsel and grace amidst often stormy seas was both an inspiration and an example to me. He lived life to the fullest and died during the time of year he loved most. My deepest condolences to his wife, his son Rick and his entire family. I hope they will find comfort inknowing Phil Thigpen will be well remembered, and remembered well. He will be deeply missed."