What They’re Saying About Jerry Mondesire

Officials and community leaders react to the death of the civil rights giant.

President of the NAACP's state conference, J. Wyatt Mondesire, middle, speaks to people gathered to demonstrate the opposition of Pennsylvania's new voter identification law during the NAACP voter ID rally, Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012, in Philadelphia. Pennsylvania's Supreme Court justices are scheduled to hear arguments over whether a new law requiring each voter to show valid photo identification poses an unnecessary threat to the right to vote. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)

J. Whyatt Mondesire, middle, is seen in 2012 speaking to people gathered to demonstrate the opposition of Pennsylvania’s voter identification law at an NAACP rally. The law has since been struck down. | Photo by Michael Perez/AP

This morning, we reported that longtime Philadelphia NAACP leader J. Whyatt “Jerry” Mondesire died Sunday night at age 65. He reportedly suffered a brain aneurysm while undergoing dialysis last week. Mondesire served as an editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer, publisher of the Philadelphia Sun, and head of the local NAACP chapter from 1991 to 2014. Here’s what officials and community leaders are saying about Mondesire:

Mayor Michael Nutter: “Jerry Mondesire’s passion and commitment to political and social empowerment is well known and was impactful. People like me and so many others benefitted from his insight and relentless efforts to improve the life condition for African-Americans and so many others in our city, state and Nation. Jerry took on the big challenges and put his heart and soul into his work. May his spirit rest in peace.”

City Council President Darrell Clarke: “I am saddened to learn of Jerry’s passing. Depending on where you stood, he was a reliably dogged ally or a worthy adversary. Whether you agreed with him or not, Jerry’s passion for equal representation and opportunity for all was undeniable. I send my heartfelt condolences to Jerry’s family and loved ones.”

District Attorney Seth Williams: “I had the privilege of learning from and working with Jerry for decades and came to admire him, not just for his unending dedication to our city, but for his kindness and support. Jerry was a champion for social, racial and economic justice — a truly powerful force for good in our city’s many neighborhoods. Personally, Jerry was like a father to me. As Chief of Staff to former Congressman Bill Gray he chaired the committee that offered me an appointment to attend West Point, and even after I left the military academy and went to Penn State, he regularly checked on me and remained a mentor. Jerry was a key adviser on my 2005 campaign for DA and was always there for advice and just to talk. Simply put, he was never shy and never sugar coated it. During my campaigns for office he would call me like clockwork at 7 a.m. to make sure I was out shaking hands. And as DA, he would reach out to remind me to always do the right thing regardless of the political consequences. Jerry, I’ll miss you and your signature boots and Stetson and know that you and your family will be in my prayers.”

U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah: “I join with the Philadelphia community in mourning the loss Jerry Mondesire. He lived a life of significance and his impact in the Philadelphia community will be long remembered.”

State Sen. Vincent Hughes: “Jerry was a take-no-prisoners kind of guy. He was focused, he was committed to a set of progressive issues. He was passionate and wasn’t afraid to get in your face. Jerry was dedicated to challenging injustice wherever he saw it.”

Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists President Cherri Gregg: “Jerry used the power of the pen and the bullhorn to advocate for those in Philadelphia without a voice. He fought not only for Philadelphia’s Black community but for all people of color and wanted nothing more than for all people in this city to be treated justly.”

Democratic mayoral nominee Jim Kenney: “Jerry’s steadfast commitment to advocacy was rivaled only by his loyalty to friends and his love for his family. I will miss him dearly. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and all who will miss Jerry, during this difficult time.”

Defense attorney, activist and radio host Michael Coard: “Jerry was one of the few conventional civil rights leaders who would come anywhere near me and my ‘crazy angry Black revolutionary rhetoric.’ Not only did he come near me; he embraced me! And he did that because he understood I was merely trying to fight the good fight for Black folks just like he was, although with different tactics but with the very same goal. One other thing — people can call him arrogant if they choose. They can call him abrasive if they choose. But they must admit that he always fought courageously for Black folks, even when most of our so-called leaders cowered in the presence of institutional racism.”

Former Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority chairman Sam Katz: “Jerry Mondesire, a good man, a great citizen of Philadelphia and a friend for over four decades, passed away today. Jerry was a journalist, a congressional aide and advisor to Rev. Bill Gray, the President of the Philadelphia Chapter of the NAACP, a newspaper publisher, a father and husband, and a friend and mentor to many. Jerry lived his life with integrity and honesty and passionately pursued justice and equality for all citizens. His world view was realistic but optimistic and his faith that change was possible and that his fight was the good fight characterized his every action. Tonight Philadelphia mourns a very good man, Rest in peace, my friend.”