Forty-five years ago today, Governor Richard J. Hughes established the Governor’s Select Commission on Civil Disorder to examine the causes of the civil unrest that occurred in July 1967 in Newark and other New Jersey cities, including Plainfield, Jersey City, Englewood and New Brunswick, and to make recommendations for change. The 10-member commission was chaired by Robert D. Lilley, president of New Jersey Bell Telephone (later president of AT&T). The full transcript of the witness testimony as well as the Lilley Commission’s landmark Report for Action are now available on the Internet at New Jersey Digital Legal Library, a project of the library of the Rutgers School of Law–Newark. The web address of the archive is: http://law-library.rutgers.edu/njdll/newark_main.php.
Over the course of five months, the Commission held 65 meetings, interviewed 106 witnesses under oath, and developed a transcript of 5,000 pages. Witnesses ranged from the taxi cab driver whose arrest and treatment sparked the disorders and the police officers who arrested him, to governors, future governors, mayors, police commissioners, community leaders and activists, academics, shopkeepers, clergy, and ordinary residents who witnessed the events of five terrible days in the life of the State of New Jersey. The Lilley Commission report listed 99 recommendations for action, including steps to be taken in the areas of housing, governance, the economy, and education.
Governor Hughes charged the commissioners to “involve yourselves not so much with recriminations from the past as with hopes and plans for the future.” The Commission’s recommendations reflect that forward-looking view and many remain relevant today. While the report of the Commission is available in a number of New Jersey libraries, only two copies of the transcripts of the original hearings exist. Through this digitization project, funded in part with a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, the law library is making available the primary records of a critical episode in the history of New Jersey to a much wider audience.
The New Jersey Digital Legal Library (NJDLL) of Rutgers–Newark Law Library was launched in 2003 and has grown to include 16 collections with approximately 500 video clips and 20,000 electronic documents. It has served more than 300,000 visitors and is popular among legal professionals and researchers. The NJDLL provides a free Web-based digital library where patrons can browse and search for previously unavailable New Jersey legal information.
Wei Fang, Head of Digital Services, and Susan Lyons, Reference and Government Documents Librarian, oversaw the project for the library.