Preserving the Legacy of James Credle

memorial service for James Credle

This page was created to preserve the incredible legacy of James Credle, a beloved friend and champion of Queer Newark. If you have a reflection, story, photograph, or video to share, please visit

For all of his 78 years, James Credle lived a life of fierce honesty, deep compassion, and unstinting activism and courage.  Drawing upon his seemingly endless energy, James made enormous contributions to every community of which he was a part.  He fought for services for veterans, including veterans in prisons.  He was an AIDS activist.  He was a founding member of National Association of Black and White Men Together: A Gay Multiracial Organization for All People, a national organization that fights racism in the LGBTQ community and homophobia in society. He was a founding member of the Newark Pride Alliance and a member of the Newark Commission on LGBT concerns.  He was an integral member and supporter of Newark’s Ballroom community. He was founder of the Circle of Friends Awards, a non-profit that provides financial support to college students committed to promoting diversity. This list touches upon only some of James Credle’s more public activist commitments. Everyone who was lucky enough to cross his path knows that James brought care and commitment to others to virtually every aspect of his life – so however you knew him, you saw his involvement from that light. 

Memorial Service and Tributes

Queer Newark



Beryl Satter, Professor of History, Rutgers University-Newark
I first met James through his service as Dean of Student Affairs at Rutgers University-Newark, a position he took in 1976 and held 37 years.  When I started my job at Rutgers-Newark in 1992, the campus was startlingly homophobic. There were no LGBT courses of any sort.  There was little support for the handful of out faculty, and almost none at all for queer students. The only administrative support for LGBT students that existed came from a single source – Dean James Credle. Because Dean Credle was a rare out member of the administration, LGBT students sought him out.  Dean Credle responded by nurturing, mentoring, and protecting the students. He was especially sensitive to the needs of queer students who faced stress at home and who could not risk being out on campus.  He used his position to find spaces for these students to meet where they would feel safe.  He organized events that spoke to their complex identities, as young people who were both queer and Black or Latinx or immigrant or Muslim or Christian or veteran or any of a number of positionalities that are too often overlooked.  He went far beyond his official duties to ensure that these students felt empowered and validated, and to make it possible for them to come together and learn from each other.  Here as in all of his social justice work, James was deeply sensitive to the strengths and complexities of intersectionality decades before the term became widespread.

Even after his retirement, James Credle ensured that LGBTQ students and student activists at Rutgers would always have his support. In memory of his late husband Jan Herman, James created the Circle of Friends Award, which honors and gives financial awards to students and young adults who excel in scholarship or community service.  It sets aside one of those yearly awards for a student from Rutgers-Newark.  James’ institutionalizing of the love and support he gave to our campus’s students for so many years was typical of his generous spirit.  For that, and for his brilliant and beautiful spirit, we will always celebrate his life, even as we mourn his passing.

June Dowell-Burton, Founder, Newark Pride, Inc.
This weekend, Newark’s LGBTQ+ community lost one of its cornerstone activists, James Credle. On behalf of the Executive Board of Newark Gay Pride, we would like to extend our sincerest condolences to all that have been touched by this quiet giant.  James’s thread of brown and gold African Kente cloth runs through the fabric of Brick City’s LGBTQ+ community, binding us together in civic duty and social justice. His creation, the Fire and Ice Ball, resurrected the glamour of the 80’s ball scene and reminded us how HIV/AIDS continues to disparately affect Newark’s LGBTQ+ community. In addition, his organizations, Newark Pride Alliance and Circle of Friends, created some of Newark’s most prominent LGBTQ+ change makers by offering mentorship opportunities and educational scholarships. Newark Gay Pride was birthed out of the activism that surrounded the death of Sakia Gunn and we will keep his legacy alive by continuing to do what is right even when times may be difficult. He taught me that standing alone in a room of naysayers only gives you more strength to do the hard work because the community stands with you. James Credle was that man, that love, that force and that light of hope. He will be missed but never forgotten.

Christina Strasburger
Dean Credle lived life with admirable authenticity and passion and had a truly astonishing impact. I had the good fortune to know him for two decades and to witness how freely he gave of himself for the good of so many. You could always sense his presence whenever he floated into the room, long before that warm three-kiss greeting. He was such a fierce advocate and an even kinder mentor. I cannot overstate how deeply his knowledge, advice, infectious laugh, and bright spirit will be missed. I will cherish the many memories and the beautiful peace calendars he gifted to mark the start of the holiday season. “Love you more,” James. Rest in power.

Marcia Brown
Extraordinary people are always those who have a deep commitment to be of service and act on it. James Credle was extraordinary. As so many have and will attest too, he devoted his life to peace justice and equality as an act of love, and sacrifice. I worked with him over 30 years along with a team of his comrades and colleagues who cherished him and the work he engaged in and campaigned for at Rutgers Newark and in the Newark community at large. I will always remember his human spirit, thankful to have known him and grateful for the gift of memory. Rest in peace, dear James.

Monique Baptiste
James Credle (Dean) was one of the most generous, inclusive, and kind humans to walk the earth. Generations of lives have been touched by this gentle soul. I feel deeply blessed to be one of them. My thoughts and prayers are with his beloved husband, family and friends at this time.

Perris Straughter
Thank you James Credle for your leadership, your mentorship, for showing a young Gay Black man how to be in this world. I pray for your family and friends at this time. You and your legacy will never be forgotten. Rest in Power, friend.

Indya Ifadayo Esutayo Ajala
I was honored to receive a service award in your name, because you were a service driven humanitarian. Before the honor, I had not met you or even understood the power you possessed. Your humble, gentle, kindness shaped my understanding of service to mankind. Thank YOU for all that you bestowed upon us ‘littles’. Your impact to the Newark, NJ community and to the Rutgers University - Newark community will forever be, legendary. Travel well. Sun re o James Credle.

Belinda Edmondson
James showed up for everything: every celebration, every protest, everything that concerned our students and his beloved communities. And you always knew when James was in the room! Such a loss for all of us.

Linda Holman-Rutherford
yes I've always felt proud to know him. His presence dictated Royalty! He deposited Well! Rutgers University hired a great asset to balance the art culture of students. His colorful wardrobe and luminating smile met you before he reached you. So glad he was able to retire in decent health & faculties! He got to enjoy retirement! His name & works shall live on! Very glad our paths crossed! Rest Well Brother Man! 

Kristyn Scorsone
I met James Credle as a graduate student at Rutgers-Newark while working with the Queer Newark Oral History Project. One of my favorite memories of Dean Credle is when I moderated a panel at Rutgers featuring him and other amazing Newark HIV/AIDS activists. During that session, I got the opportunity to hear about the HIV/AIDS activism James spearheaded and all the ways he cared for those around him when so many others had turned away. As a queer kid who grew up in Kearny, I was awed to hear about this aspect of LGBTQ+ history and the ways people in Newark came together and resisted just a couple miles from my home. I also cherish the Jan Herman Veenker Award I received from Circle of Friends and consider it a great honor because it came from James Credle, a person who dedicated his entire life to making the world better for everyone, but especially for the LGBTQ+ community. Thanks to him, I can live freer as a queer and trans person. We all owe so much to James and the transformative work he engaged in within Newark and beyond. I will always think of him with gratitude and remember his contributions to this world.