Activist claims threat made in phone call

Staff Writer

By Kathy Baratta

Activist claims
threat made
in phone call

A local civil rights activist claims his life was threatened after he filed a $100 million lawsuit last month in a challenge to Lakewood’s housing practices.

The Rev. James Wilcox of Brick Township, president of the Coalition for the Underprivileged and Poor, said a male telephoned him at home on July 9 and told him, "Reverend, you are a dead man."

Wilcox characterized the voice as a "male Caucasian." He said he immediately informed police of the incident. He said although he has caller ID on his telephone service, it was no help because the call registered as unavailable.

Wilcox said the police and FBI were unable to trace the origin of the call. He said he believes the caller was a member of Lakewood’s orthodox Jewish community who is angry over his legal challenge to the town’s housing lottery.

"I know all the players and the tactics they use," Wilcox said, explaining that he filed his legal action due to what he alleges is favoritism being given to housing applicants from the Jewish community over others who apply.

"If you choose reasoning here, the only conclusion that makes sense is that this was done by someone who is upset over the lawsuit and its allegations," he said.

Wilcox said that after receiving the telephoned threat he left a message for Meir N. Hertz, executive director of the Lakewood Township Residential Assistance Program, "to tell him that I am not going to be intimidated."

When asked for a comment, Hertz said, "I have no knowledge of the incident except for the message Rev. Wilcox left me."

As to Wilcox’s claim that the unknown caller was an orthodox Jew, Hertz said, "I question what led him to that assertion."

Wilcox said he has a long history of working in the civil rights movement, stating, "I didn’t read about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I worked with him." He said the threat will not stop him or slow him down.

Wilcox said he is no stranger to danger and threats. He said when he worked in the South in the 1960s, "we got them all the time."

"In the words of Dr. King, like any man, I would like to live a long and fruitful life, but longevity is not everything," he said.

Wilcox said this is the first time a death threat has been made since he moved to New Jersey in 1990. He said he would not let the threat of violence deter him and said he is sure he would prevail in his lawsuit against Lakewood and several municipal agencies.