Celebrity Death

Ronald Rice Cause of Death? How Did Former Deputy Mayor of Newark Die Explained

Former state Sen. Ronald Rice, a fiercely independent Democrat who served Newark for decades, has died at the age of 77.

How Did Die?

The Legislature’s longest-serving African-American, Rice has passed away at the age of 77. The mayor announced this sad news.

Mayor Ted R. Green releases a statement as follows:

“I am incredibly saddened to learn of the passing of Senator Rice, a gentleman who I love, who has stood strong for the voiceless for over 36 years.

From fighting for racial equality and women’s rights to criminal justice reform and reparations, Senator Rice inspired residents of the State of New Jersey and beyond with his wisdom, mentorship, deep understanding of our history, and devotion to the progression of underserved populations; forcing fellow legislators to confront uncomfortable truths, never afraid to be a lone voice champion of the poor and dispossessed.

My heart and prayers are with the family and friends of Senator Rice. May his legacy live on through us all.”

“He was a fighter. He was the epitome of fairness. Essex County Democratic Chair LeRoy Jones says, he was “our African-American hero.

Who was Ronald Rice?

Rice was born on December 18, 1945, in Richmond, Virginia, U.S. He was a former Newark police detective and Marine Corps veteran of the Vietnam War. He served in the Senate from 1986 until his retirement in August due to poor health.

Rice founded the Legislative Black Caucus, served as its first chair, and devoted his career to racial and social justice causes.

Additionally, he was well-known for his critique of New Jersey’s political boss system, Rice frequently sparred with the state’s most influential Democrats.

Education & Career

Rice earned an A.S. in police science from Essex County College, a B.S. in administration and planning from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and an M.A. in criminal justice from Rutgers University.

He also studied at the Rutgers School of Law—Newark, but he never received a degree from there. He obtained several degrees in criminal justice before joining the Newark Police Department in 1972 and rising to the rank of investigator in 1974.


Before his nomination to the Senate, he began working for the Public Service Electric & Gas Company in 1980.

Rice’s involvement in politics came much later. From 1966 to 1970, he served in the Marine Marines, with roughly half of that time spent in Vietnam.

Ronald Rice Political Career

Rice, who was raised in the Jim Crow South, rose to fame in Newark, the biggest city in the state. According to his biography, he was elected to the municipal council in 1982 and was re-elected in 1986, 1990, and 1994.

In 2002, he was chosen to serve as Newark’s deputy mayor. Rice was the deputy mayor of Newark from 2002 to March 2006 and spent 16 years on the Newark City Council (1982–1998).

To compete for mayor, he resigned from his position as deputy mayor. He was allowed to serve on the city council and the State Senate at the same time because dual office holding was not prohibited in New Jersey.

Ronald Rice NJ State Senator

Rice was elected in a special election to represent the 28th district after the death of John P. Caufield in August 1986. He took office on December 4, 1986.

Even though he faced tough competition in the Democratic primary from Laurence Brown in 1997, Assemblyman Willie B. Brown in 2001, and Freeholder D. Bilal Beasley in 2007, he never got less than two-thirds of the vote in any of his Senate general elections.

Rice supported Democratic nominee John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election as one of New Jersey’s presidential electors.

He was a prominent opponent of marijuana legalization legislation in the 218th New Jersey Legislature, claiming that legalization would make urban communities “struggle against the spread of ‘marijuana bodegas’ disguised as dispensaries”

New Jersey Legislative Black Caucus

Rice took the lead on racial justice problems. He sponsored legislation allowing local governments to establish civilian review boards with subpoena power and called for a statewide investigation into racial bias in the criminal justice system.

Rice fought for the opinions of women, particularly those of women of color. He was a staunch advocate for racial justice and a prominent leader serving as Chair of the New Jersey Legislative Black Caucus.

Rice presided over the New Jersey Legislative Black Caucus for 18 years, with the goal of “prioritizing legislative and policy agendas to ensure that people of color, in particular, are treated equally and justly when it comes to social justice, economic justice, and criminal justice reform.”

Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter (D-Passaic) claims that the seasoned lawmaker “personally tapped” her to replace him as chair in 2021.

Ronald Rice Cause of Death

Ronald Rice passed away at the age of 77 following months of worsening health. Rice battled several health issues and left the office on August 31, 2022.

He battled with cancer and passed away on March 15, 2023. Fellow politicians and friends paid their tribute to Rice. Tributes flooded social media after the demise news of Rice broke out.

This year, Rice’s alma mater Rutgers University revealed the creation of an endowed scholarship in his honor to aid students enrolled in the school’s criminal justice programme.

Rice’s support for legislation allowing municipalities to form civilian review boards and his demand for a study on racial bias in the state’s criminal justice system was mentioned by the university as examples of his advocacy for racial justice.

Governor Phil Murphy declared he would hoist state flags in Rice’s honor.

His legacy and example will continue to inspire this administration and all of New Jersey’s leaders to work towards racial equity and expand opportunity for underserved communities,” Murphy said in a statement.

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