James R. Roebuck Jr., former Pennsylvania state representative, has died at the age of 79

James R. Roebuck Jr., 79, of Philadelphia, former Pennsylvania state representative, former legislative assistant to former Mayor Wilson Goode and assistant professor of history at Drexel University, died Wednesday, May 15, of complications from hypertension and diabetes in a nursing facility Saint Ignacy Center.

Rep. Roebuck served for 35 years as a state representative from West Philadelphia’s 188th District before losing in the Democratic primary in 2020. He won a special election in 1985 after the death of his predecessor in office and completing another 17 two-year terms.

From 1970 to 1984, he was a lecturer in history and politics and an adjunct professor at Drexel, thanks to which he became a recognized authority on schools and public education. He served as chairman of his party on the House Education Committee for nearly 20 years and, among other things, helped secure state funding for preschool programs, the Community College of Philadelphia and local high-speed Internet access.

His wife, Cheryl, was a music teacher in Philadelphia, and he defended city schools and public education statewide. He and his wife personally supported music education programs and, for a time, taught reading to students at Henry C. Lea Elementary School.

He supported charter school reform, opposed school vouchers for private school tuition and told the Daily News in 1986, “My true love is teaching. I was good at it.”

“He was always on the front lines, speaking publicly on issues of great importance,” Jerry T. Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, said in a speech. tribute. “Rep. Roebuck deserves tremendous credit for helping change the narrative about public education.”

“Teaching is something I still love and think of myself as.”

Rep. Roebuck in 2020

Former colleagues said Roebuck, a Republican, was adept at building legislative coalitions and articulating nuance in policy proposals. State Representative Peter Schweyer, current majority chairman of the House Education Committee, called him “a staunch advocate who was still able to compromise and negotiate to ensure that the ultimate goal was achieved: better schools for every child.”

He also focused on the arts, job training, community building, and unjust incarceration. He helped fund the Ronald McDonald House for patients’ families and Mercy Catholic Medical Center’s emergency department.

He supported women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, labor rights, gun law reform, and animal and environmental protection. He was a longtime leader of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, which he called: scholarship in his honor when he retired.

“His service and tenure in our delegation is unparalleled as he continued to be a source of inspiration and insight well into his term in the Legislature,” state Rep. Morgan Cephas, chairman of the House delegation in Philadelphia, said in a statement. tribute.

“Understand that Black History Month, as we celebrate it, lasts one month. But the Black experience and those things that are part of being African American in this country are something that we should be reminded of day after day, month after month.”

Rep. Roebuck in 2020.

He joined Drexel’s history and politics department as a lecturer in 1970 and became an assistant professor in 1977. He connected the school with local community groups and served on the board of the Garden Court Community Association and other organizations in West Philadelphia.

He left Drexel in 1984 to work briefly as Goode’s liaison to the City Council. He previously served as a member of the 46th District Democratic Committee and as a member of the Democratic State Committee. In 1976 and 1978, he unsuccessfully ran for state representative.

Rep. Roebuck also served on the boards of the Community College of Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. “Jim will be remembered for his deep compassion, pursuit of social justice, commitment to public service and sharp intellect,” the family said in a tribute.

James Randolph Roebuck Jr. was born on February 12, 1945 in Philadelphia. He grew up in West Philadelphia and became interested in history and politics after graduating from Central High School in 1963.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Virginia Union University and a master’s and doctorate in history from the University of Virginia. He was student body president at Virginia Union, the first black student body president in Virginia, and an outspoken supporter of racial and gender equality on Virginia’s campus.

He married Irene Owens in 1974, and their marriage lasted until 1978. He married Cheryl Arrington in 1987. She died in 2016.

Rep. Roebuck and his wife enjoyed traveling, often by train, to national parks throughout the country and historic sites in Europe. His doctoral dissertation at Virginia focused on U.S. diplomatic policy in East Asia, and he later toured China.

He regularly rooted for the Phillies and Eagles, and his family and close friends called him Randy because his father’s name was Jim. He was a deacon at Mount Olivet Tabernacle Baptist Church and quoted one of his favorite songs: You’ll never walk alone during his 2020 farewell speech in Harrisburg.

“He was very humble and very caring,” said college roommate and longtime friend Gideon (*79*). “He was a problem solver, practiced and believed in honesty. He would do anything for anyone.”

Rep. Roebuck left behind an aunt and other relatives.

Services will be 9 a.m. Friday, June 7, at Calvary United Methodist Church, 801 S. 48th St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19143.

Get in Touch


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

Latest Posts