First black Bronx councilman
Wendell Foster, passes at 95
BY ROBERT WIRSING
The Bronx mourns the loss of an historic
councilman and Civil Rights advocate.
Rev. Dr. Wendell Foster, the fi rst African
American from the Bronx elected
to the City Council, passed away on
Wednesday, September 4 at 95-yearsold.
Foster served on the Council from
January 1, 1978 to December 31, 2001.
“Rev. Dr. Wendell Foster was a trailblazer,
the fi rst black elected representing
the Bronx in the City Council,” Assembly
Speaker Carl Heastie said. “He
was a mentor to many of today’s leaders.”
Foster, a Civil Rights advocate, was
involved with New York CORE (Congress
of Racial Equality) since the mid
Rev. Dr. Wendell Foster was a 23-year councilman, Civil Rights advocate and Christ Church
founding pastor. Photo courtesy of CORE (Congress of Racial Equality)
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He played a central role in the Pallisades
Park demonstrations in the summers
of 1947 and 1948.
According to NY CORE, Foster and
other members went into the New Jersey
amusement park’s water and refused
to leave during the demonstrations
to integrate the park’s swimming
The Alabama native and his wife of
nearly 63 years Helen moved to Highbridge
In 1965, he was appointed the American
Committee on Africa’s associate
director and frequently collaborated
with CORE founding members George
Houser and James Robinson.
That same year, Foster marched
alongside the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther
King, Jr. and other Civil Rights
activists on the Selma to Montgomery
In Morrisania, Foster served as a
founding pastor at Christ Church on 860
Forest Avenue for over 42 years.
He recently became a pastor emeritus
at the ‘church where visitors are
only strangers once.’
Foster had previously ran twice for
the City Council before he was fi nally
elected in 1977.
Throughout his 23-year tenure, he
served as a councilman for the 16th
Council District which encompasses
Morrisania, Highbridge, Claremont,
Concourse, Concourse Village, Morris
Heights and Mount Eden.
His daughter Helen Diane Foster
was elected in 2001 to his council seat as
he became term limited.
Much like her father, Helen Diane
Foster also made history by becoming
the fi rst African American woman
elected from the Bronx to the City Council.
She served as councilwoman from
January 1, 2002 to December 31, 2013
and was succeeded by former Assemblywoman
“I am honored to represent the
same district he led in the Council for
23 years,” Gibson expressed. “He was
a committed and dedicated public servant
who gave his all to making a difference
during a challenging time in the
Local and city elected offi cials expressed
their gratitude for Foster’s public
“He was an historic fi gure in our
borough and a dedicated public servant,”
Borough President Ruben Diaz,
Jr. stated. “My thoughts are with his
family and friends during this diffi cult
“(Wendell Foster) endured Jim
Crow, marched for Civil Rights, fought
to open doors of opportunity for his constituents
in the Bronx and blazed a trail
for black lawmakers across our city,”
Mayor de Blasio stated.
Foster is survived by his wife Helen;
his daughters Helen and Rebekah and
his two grandchildren.