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Early in 1940, four Black men who had attended Germantown High School in Philadelphia, decided that something needed to be done to give more recognition to Black athletes from high school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At that time, all the high schools were beginning to integrate scholastically and athletically, but very little recognition was being given to the success of Black athletes in high school competitions.
Consequently, Al Bishop, Clarence Jenkins, Charles Tyree and Jesse Jones (all deceased) decided to form an organization that would select annually and give an award to an outstanding Black athlete from one of the high schools in the Philadelphia area. They called themselves the "Men of Cliveden;" "Vliveden" being the name to all Germantown High School Athletic Teams. To the best of our knowledge, the "Men of Cliveden" is no longer an active organization.
As a 1933 graduate of Germantown High School, Winfred S. Gideon III was a member of the varsity basketball and track teams. In 1942, he was the youngest person invited to join the "Men of Cliveden" and remained an active member even after moving to East Orange, New Jersey in 1950. In 1955, he invited Hamilton V. Bowser, James Sherman and J. Garfield Jackson to join him in attending the "Men of Cliveden" Award Dinner. That year, the Cliveden Award was being given to Wilt Chamberlain, the basketball phenomenon from Overbrook High School.
At his urging, the four had discussed starting a similar organization in Essex County, New Jersey and decided to announce their plans that very evening. They would honor outstanding athletes from high school in Essex County, New Jersey following the "Men of Cliveden" model. Their biggest supporter was the late Paul Horowitz, then a sports writer for the Newark Evening News, who specifically went to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to be in attendance at the event honoring Wilt Chamberlain. He heard their announcement and took immediate interest in their endeavor.
After returning to East Orange, New Jersey they continued to meet and discuss the formalities of the new organization. They then decided to broaden their approach by honoring Scholar Athletes, regardless of race, creed or national origin. On January 6, 1958, they organized formally and adopted the name "Men of Essex" and Winfred Gideon lll was elected the organization's first President.
In February, 1959, the Newark Evening News gave extensive coverage to the newly formed organization and on May 26, 1959, gave even more coverage to the very first Awards Dinner, appropriately held at the former Essex House on Broad Street in Newark, New Jersey. Paul Horowitz covered the event for the Newark Evening News and witnessed the presentation of the first Essex Award to Weequahic High School track star, Robert "Bobby" Mack.
Since the time of our inception, we have recognized many bright students who have then embarked on the journey of their lives. Although the time they were honored was but a brief moment in time, It is our desire to ensure that their accomplishments are remembered forever.
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