City Council honors former Alderman Matthew Jefferson for 100th birthday

Matthew Jefferson, who served as Newton’s first Black alderman, recently turned 100 years old. And on Tuesday night, the City Council made his birthday a local holiday.

Ward 2 At-Large Councilor Tarik Lucas invited two of Jefferson’s children—Richard and Laurie Jefferson—up to the podium as he read a proclamation honoring their father for his life of service to the city.

Jefferson was born on Feb. 16, 1924, in South Carolina. He moved to Newton and was active in the community,

Jefferson became the city’s first Black alderman in 1968, at-large from Ward 3, and served in that role for 20 years before retiring in 1988. He served as president of the Board of Alderman from 1978 to 1983.

Jefferson, Lucas noted, played an instrumental role in establishing the city’s policy requiring low-income housing requirements for special permits as well as the creation of the American Legion Post 440. He also got a unanimous vote from the Board of Alderman to condemn apartheid and a call to divest the city’s pension fund of $3.5 million in South African-related investments.

“No recognition of Matt—as he was known to his colleagues, friends and supporters—would be complete without his wife, Lily B. Jefferson” Lucas said, “herself a Newton native, a church woman, a leader in the social affairs of the Myrtle Baptist Church and well known in “the Village,” and throughout Newton for her charitable concerns, including the permanent establishment of the then-newly formed METCO program.”

Going forward, Feb. 16 will be set aside to remember Jefferson’s contributions to the city.

Jefferson wasn’t there himself, but his children spoke in his place.

“Thank you so much for this honor,” Richard Jefferson said, adding that they’d be showing him video of the presentation on YouTube.

“And I want to say, as his baby daughter, I’m son very proud of my father,” Laura Jefferson said. “He is an absolutely fantastic, father, person and citizen of the world.”