CAMDEN, N.J. — The Camden County Freeholder Board working with the Camden County Historical Society to honor Camden native and boxing legend Arnold “Jersey Joe Walcott” Cream with an eight-foot statue in Wiggins Park along the Camden Waterfront.
The Freeholder Board has approved $185,000 in funds to begin work on the statue in August. Those funds will be repaid by the Historical Society as a result of a fundraising campaign to kick off in September with an amateur boxing event on the Battleship New Jersey.
“Jersey Joe’s legacy as a professional boxer and world-class athlete is of historical significance, but it’s his iconography in the region that really motivates this project,” Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli, Jr. said in a statement. “Jersey Joe was born and raised in Camden City, and he was a hero and an inspiration to people throughout our area.”
Joe Walcott was an American professional boxer who competed from 1930 to 1953. He held the world heavyweight title from 1951 to 1952 and broke the record for the oldest man to win the title, at the age of 37. That record would eventually be broken in 1994 by 45-year-old George Foreman.
After retiring from boxing, Walcott did some acting, playing small parts in a few movies and television shows. From 1971 to 1974, Walcott held the elected position of Sheriff of Camden County, the first African-American to do so. From 1975 to 1984, he was the chairman of the New Jersey State Athletic Commission.
“Both in his athletic career and as a public servant, he spent his life breaking barriers and redefining success,” Cappelli said. “We think it’s important not only to honor him for his contributions to this community, but to ensure that his legacy continues to inspire others for a very long time.”
The tribute is to be created by local sculptor, Carl LeVotch. His design includes an eight-foot bronze figure sculpture with two bronze high relief sculptures, and a bronze replica of The Champion’s ring belt. These works of art will be affixed to a pedestal/base, and the entire monument will be placed permanently on the promenade at Wiggins Park. Work is expected to begin on the artwork by mid-to-late September, with a timeline for completion around Fall 2021.
More information about the statue, fundraising, and Jersey Joe himself can be found by visiting https://www.camdencounty.com/jerseyjoe.