Joyce Alexander Walker, Cherry Hill’s first-ever black councilwoman, died Saturday, local officials confirmed.
Walker, 61, had been an integral part of local politics for well over a decade; besides her service on the township council, she was co-chair of the local Democratic Party at the time of her death.
“She was a tough and principled woman,” Assemblyman Louis Greenwald said via Twitter Saturday night. “Cherry Hill has lost a great leader.”
The longtime Democrat, originally from East Orange, was first elected to the council in 1997, and served two terms before being bumped from the ticket in 2005, prompting then-council President David Fleisher—who has since returned to his seat—to resign in protest.
Walker, who Democrats hailed as a pioneer, didn’t stop after being dropped from the township council—she went on to serve on the township’s Board of Fire Commissioners, including as its chairwoman, and was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 2012.
She helped found the Cherry Hill Economic Development Council, served on the township’s planning board and was a member of the Cherry Hill African-American Civic Association.
Walker also was general manager of Multi Facet Inc., a wholesale distributor of industrial products, and held degrees from Princeton and Rutgers universities.
She was honored earlier this year, when Mayor Chuck Cahn declared Nov. 5 as Joyce Alexander Walker Day, citing her lifelong “mission of unity, purpose and service” in recognizing her.
Walker would’ve been up for reelection to the Board of Fire Commissioners this winter; she had been unable to be at the most recent meeting, when the board introduced the fire district’s budget, but had teleconferenced in for the decision.