Randy Primas

Melvin Randolph "Randy" Primas, Jr. (August 31, 1949 – March 1, 2012) was an American politician who served as the first African-American Mayor of Camden, New Jersey from 1981 to 1990.[2][3]

Randy Primas
Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs
In office
January 18, 1990 – September 18, 1992
GovernorJames Florio
Preceded byAnthony M. Villane
Succeeded byStephanie R. Bush
Mayor of Camden, New Jersey
In office
Preceded byAngelo Errichetti
Succeeded byAaron Thompson
Personal details
Melvin Randolph Primas, Jr.

(1949-08-31)August 31, 1949[1]
Camden, New Jersey
DiedMarch 1, 2012(2012-03-01) (aged 62)
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Bonita Primas


Early lifeEdit

Primas was raised in Camden, New Jersey as a member of one of the city's most prominent families.[3] He earned a bachelor's degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C., in 1971.[2] Primas then joined the Black People's Unity Movement when he returned to Camden.[2] Before becoming mayor, Primas was the Vice President of Burger King Entities, an economic-development program sponsored by the Black People's Unity Movement.[3]

Political careerEdit

Primas was elected to the Camden City Council when he was just 23 years old, quickly rising to become the council's president.[2][3] In the early 1980s, Camden Mayor Angelo Errichetti was indicted by U.S. federal authorities in the wake of the Abscam scandal[3] and Primas subsequently won the 1981 mayoral election, becoming the first African-American mayor in the city's history.[3] He was 31 years old at the time of his election.[3]

Primas would be elected to three consecutive terms in the mayor's office, serving until 1990.[2][3] However, his support for several urban renewal projects, including the construction of the now demolished Riverfront State Prison, earned him criticism from some community leaders and residents.[3] Primas left office in 1990 when New Jersey Governor Jim Florio appointed to him as the Commissioner on the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, succeeding Anthony M. Villane.[2][4]

He served as a trustee for Rowan University from 1993 to 1999.[3] Primas worked as an executive for Commerce Capital Markets, which was part of Commerce Bank at the time, during the early 2000.[3]

In 2002, Primas was appointed the first chief operating officer (COO) of Camden by the state government, shortly before New Jersey took control of the city.[2][3] He retired from the post in 2006 following a public dispute with Community Affairs Commissioner Susan Bass Levin over a memorandum of understanding which Primas had refused to sign.[2][3]

Primas moved to Fort Mill, South Carolina, following his retirement.[2] He was later diagnosed with bone-marrow cancer and died at a hospital in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, on March 1, 2012, at the age of 62.[2] He was survived by his wife, Bonita, and two sons, Melvin Primas III and Craig Primas.[3] Primas' funeral, which was held at the St. John Baptist Church in East Camden, was attended by numerous Camden and New Jersey political dignitaries, including Camden Mayor Dana Redd, former Mayor Gwendolyn Faison, U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews, Former Governor Jim Florio, state Senator Donald Norcross, and state Assemblyman Gilbert "Whip" Wilson.[2] Camden Mayor Redd ordered all municipal flags to fly at half staff.[3]


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Vargas, Clauia (2012-03-09). "Current and former S.J. politicos attend funeral of former Camden Mayor Randy Primas". Philadelphia Inquirer (Camden Flow). Retrieved 2012-03-11.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o O'Brien, Reity (2012-03-04). "Melvin R. "Randy" Primas Jr., Camden's first African American mayor, dies at 62". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 2012-03-11.
  4. ^ Gonzales, Patrisia. "Primas Job May Go To Thompson Council Makes Its Pick Today", The Philadelphia Inquirer, January 17, 1990. Accessed September 1, 2016. "Primas succeeds Anthony M. Villane Jr. of Monmouth County, who headed the agency since July 1988 after six terms in the General Assembly."