ABERDEEN – On Oct. 16, Aberdeen Township officials will honor the late Phillip N. Gumbs when they rename Midland Park to Phillip N. Gumbs Park to pay homage to his life and career of service.
All members of the community are invited to attend the event which will take place at 2 p.m. at 2 Marjorie St. in the Cliffwood section of the township.
Gumbs attended Matawan High School and graduated in 1942. He served in the Army air forces during World War II until 1945. After the war, Gumbs attended John Marshall College in Jersey City before transferring to Lincoln University in Missouri.
In 1971, he obtained his doctorate of jurisprudence. Gumbs served as the mayor of Aberdeen Township from 1974-75. He also served on Board of Education and the Zoning Board of Adjustment, and as a municipal prosecutor.
In 1974, Gumbs joined the Monmouth County Board of Freeholders. He was named the board’s director in 1975. He served as a freeholder until Gov. Brendan T. Byrne appointed him as a workers’ compensation judge in 1976.
Gumbs was an active member of St. Mark African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Aberdeen. He died in 2011 at the age of 82.
Gumbs’ daughter, Robina Gumbs-Shaw, said her father’s character and leadership abilities were qualities that made him an excellent role model to his family and community.
“My father was a great leader, a wise judge, a devoted church member, an outstanding husband and father, and a role model for many people throughout Monmouth County, the state of New Jersey and for the African-American community.
“He gave his life in service to the community and we will not see a man of his stature pass this way again,” Gumbs-Shaw said.
Gumbs’ son, Kelvin Gumbs, said the renaming of Midland Park is a testament to his father’s legacy as a public servant.
“My father stressed education and hard work, no matter what your chosen profession, be the best at what you do. What made him a great role model was his belief in community, he was a true public servant.
“He demonstrated his beliefs by his actions, from his service to his country during World War II, his church and his community, he believed that in order to make change, you had to be involved.
“The dedication of this park is the culmination of a lifetime of hard work. It is special because this is where he grew up. Generations of children who grew up in this section of town played here and learned to swim in the community pool that was once here.
“I remember the stories my father used to share about what this park once was; the improvements he initiated when he was mayor. It will now serve as a permanent and lasting legacy of a native son whose story and accomplishments will live for generations to come,” Gumbs said.