James Usry, 79; First Black Mayor of Atlantic City, N.J.

James T. Usry, 79, the first black mayor of Atlantic City, N.J., died Friday at a nursing home in Galloway Township, N.J.. He had suffered from diabetes and cancer for some time.

A longtime educator, principal and school official, Usry was elected mayor in 1984 and served until 1990, when he was defeated by James Whelan.

Usry’s career was marred by his 1989 arrest amid a corruption investigation. He pleaded guilty to a campaign finance law violation and was spared a jail term.

A native of Athens, Ga., he moved to Atlantic City with his family as a toddler. During World War II, Usry served in Africa and Italy with the 92nd Infantry Division. After the war, he earned a bachelor’s degree in social education at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and a master’s degree from New Jersey’s Glassboro State College, now called Rowan University.

From 1946 to 1951, Usry played professional basketball with the New York Renaissance and the Harlem Globetrotters.


After leaving political office, he served as a substitute teacher in Atlantic City’s public schools.