Abraham Levitt and Sons purchased and developed Willingboro land in the 1950s and 1960s as a planned community in their Levittown model. With residential development, the 1950 population of 852 rapidly climbed to 11,861 in 1960; and 43,386 in 1970. The community used the name "Levittown, New Jersey" in 1958, and "Levittown Township" from 1959 to 1963.
Willingboro was one of the original nine divisions in the organization of Burlington County within West Jersey, and was originally formed as the "Constabulary of Wellingborrow" on November 6, 1688. At the time, it included present day Delanco Township, New Jersey. The original name of Wellingborough was after the community in England. This was the hometown of Thomas Ollive, who led the original settlers into what would become Willingboro Township. Other spellings were used at different times.
After the establishment of the United States and the State of New Jersey, the community was formally incorporated as "Willingborough Township", one of New Jersey's initial group of 104 townships, on February 21, 1798, by the New Jersey Legislature when it enacted "An Act incorporating the Inhabitants of Townships, designating their Powers, and regulating their Meetings", P.L. 1798, p. 289. This makes Willingboro one of the oldest townships in the State.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Willingboro was the location for a massive residential development by Levitt & Sons. The town was to be Levitt & Sons' third and largest Levittown development, following similar projects in New York and Pennsylvania. Levitt acquired the great majority of the land in Willingboro; the historic community of Rancocas, in the southeast portion of the township, was annexed to Westampton Township to keep it from being bulldozed, as Levitt wished to keep the development within the boundaries of a single municipality. The first Levittown homes were sold in June 1958, at which time the community was already known as Levittown, New Jersey.
The town's name was changed from the original Willingboro to "Levittown Township" by a referendum of township residents held on November 3, 1959. Willingboro was less than 12 miles (19 km) from Levittown, Pennsylvania and this occasionally caused confusion. A referendum held on the issue on November 5, 1963, changed the name back to Willingboro. The name change was passed by a narrow margin of 3,123 to 3,003. In retaliation, Levitt refused to donate any more schools to the fast growing community.
The sociologistHerbert J. Gans used Willingboro as the subject of his 1967 book, The Levittowners: Ways of Life and Politics in a New Suburban Community. In his book, he discusses a community frozen in time as an ideal representation of past, present and future America. At the same time, he analyzes the perpetuating American tradition and capacity to changes. In The Levittowners, Gans studies three major aspects of the life in Willingboro. He first deals with the development and growth of this new suburban community, particularly involvement in community organizations. Later, he describes the qualities and the characteristics of such a life. Finally, Gans focuses on the effects that suburbia will have on its inhabitants. According to the author, the Levittowners are the archetypical American characters, sharing the same way of life, values, religion, beliefs, ethnicity and living standards. They represent the American Way of Life. However, Levittown isn’t homogenous in a sense that it still embodies a constructive individualism. Gans draws a positive portrait of those citizens who are there to cement a stable society. They are an epitome of the “traditional” values, but they are also capable of opening up to changing times. They represent modernity. Gans only portrays a certain “half” of the population. The “other half” is left apart and ignored, which shows that Levittown was in a sense an enclave and represents American exceptionalism. He did not examine racial discrimination, although he wrote that a racial disturbance broke out in Levittown, Pennsylvania when a white family sold their home to African Americans.
When homes for the new Levittown were first being sold in 1958, Levitt and Sons had a policy against sales to African Americans. W. R. James, an African-American officer in the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division, was stationed at nearby Fort Dix and applied to purchase a Levittown home. On June 29, 1958, an agent of Levitt and Sons told him that the new Levittown development would be an all-white community. James filed suit against the company challenging their policy. A friend of his, who worked at the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights, said that it was illegal in New Jersey to discriminate in federally-subsidized housing. At the time, de facto racial segregation in housing existed in many areas in the United States. Levittown was receiving mortgage insurance from the Federal Housing Administration. But as of 1958, the law had not been tested.
James sued Levitt in a case that ultimately went to the New Jersey Supreme Court, which upheld lower court rulings in favor of James. James was not the first African American to move into Willingboro. Given James' success in his suit, Charles and Vera Williams purchased a house and moved into the community in 1960, the first African-American family in Willingboro. James eventually moved into Millbrook Park in 1960. He served as head of the local chapter of the NAACP and eventually became a minister. An elementary school in Willingboro was named in his honor.
Following the court case, Levitt developed a thorough integration program. The company set up an integration committee headed by Howard Lett, an African American. Lett created a five-point program, which included the announcement by community leaders of Levitt’s plan to desegregate housing, and a thorough briefing program for Levitt employees, government officials, the police and the press. Lett recommended an attempt to discourage anti-integration activities known as “Operation Hothead”. Lett created a Human Relations Council to oversee possible disputes in community. James served as a member of that committee. The committee tried to solve problems of juvenile delinquency in the township. It opposed a curfew passed by the Township Council in the early 1970s. The curfew was later dropped, but reintroduced later on. One area that the committee oversaw was the practice of blockbusting.
The African-American population of Willingboro increased throughout the 1960s; by 1964 there were 50 African-American families. By 1970, African Americans represented about 11% of the population. During the early 1970s, several homeowners said they were approached by local real estate agents and told that their neighborhood was becoming increasingly African-American and home values could decline if they did not sell quickly; a practice known as blockbusting. While the Human Relations Council could not prove these claims, it made recommendations to help foster better relations between ethnic communities in the township and calm concerns.
To maintain integration, the township in 1974 enacted an ordinance that prohibited the posting of "for sale" or "sold" signs on real estate. Many other communities had enacted similar laws in reaction to the practice of blockbusting in the 1960s and 1970s. The Supreme Court in the 1977 case of Linmark Associates, Inc. v. Willingboro ruled that the ordinance violated the First Amendment protections for free speech, which applied to commercial needs.
Willingboro is divided into several sections, each section's street names beginning with the same letter as the corresponding section. For example, streets in Pennypacker Park all begin with the letter "P". This is the case with all parks, excluding Martin's Beach and certain streets in Rittenhouse Park.
Originally each Park or section had its own swimming pool for residents' use. Residents' families would receive free swim tags after showing applicable IDs at each section's school or the community office. Free lessons and other events were focused on these "park" pools during the summer months. By the 1990s, only Pennypacker Park and Country Club Park had operating summer pools. Finally, Country Club Park has been denoted the "community pool" at this time.
Country Club Ridge
Somerset Park (First house was occupied here.)
Garfield Park East
Garfield Park North
Twin Hill Park
Ironside Court (Non-residential, Public Works Department and some industry.)
A section without a name is located near Olympia Lakes. This is the only part of the town with the area code 856. The rest of Willingboro is in area code 609.
There were 10,884 households, of which 27.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.3% were married couples living together, 21.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 23.9% were non-families. 20.1% of all households were made up of individuals, and 9.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.90 and the average family size was 3.32.
The Census Bureau's 2006-2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income was $66,479 (with a margin of error of +/- $4,323) and the median family income was $73,968 (+/- $2,888). Males had a median income of $48,323 (+/- $2,553) versus $40,313 (+/- $3,074) for females. The per capita income for the township was $25,989 (+/- $1,048). About 6.9% of families and 8.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 14.5% of those under age 18 and 3.8% of those age 65 or over.
There were 10,713 households out of which 33.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 58.1% were married couples living together, 18.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 18.0% were non-families. 15.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.07 and the average family size was 3.36.
In the township the population was spread out with 27.5% under the age of 18, 7.5% from 18 to 24, 26.1% from 25 to 44, 26.0% from 45 to 64, and 12.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 90.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.4 males.
The median income for a household in the township was $60,869, and the median income for a family was $64,338. Males had a median income of $39,963 versus $31,554 for females. The per capita income for the township was $21,799. About 3.5% of families and 5.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.3% of those under age 18 and 5.1% of those age 65 or over.
The Township of Willingboro is governed within the Faulkner Act under the Council-Manager form of government (Plan E), enacted by direct petition and implemented as of January 1, 1962. The current Council-Manager form of government was adopted by referendum in November 1960 based on the recommendations of a Charter Study Commission. The elections for the first council to operate under the new Council-Manager form of government took place in November 1961, with the new council taking office as of January 1, 1962, under the new form. The five-member Township Council is elected in partisan elections to serve four-year terms in office on a staggered basis, with two or three seats coming up for election as part of the November general election during odd-numbered years. At a reorganization held during the first week of January after each election, the council selects a Mayor and Deputy Mayor from among its members.
As of 2013[update], the members of the Willingboro Township Council are Mayor Jacqueline Jennings (D, term on council ends December 31, 2015; term as mayor ends 2013), Deputy Mayor Eddie Campbell, Jr. (D, 2015), Nathaniel Anderson (D, 2013), James E. Ayrer (D, 2015) and Chris Walker (D, 2013; serving an unexpired term).
The Township Council appointed Chris Walker in October 2013 to fill the vacant seat of Ken Gordon, after a New Jersey Superior Court judge ruled that Gordon's seat was vacant based on his having missed a series of council meetings. Eddie Campbell was named to fill Gordon's former position as deputy mayor.
Federal, state and county representation
Willingboro Township is located in the 3rd Congressional District and is part of New Jersey's 7th state legislative district.
During the early development of the township, all high school students attended Levittown High School for ninth through twelfth grades, until John F. Kennedy High School was opened in 1965. Levittown High became one of the two junior high schools; the other was Memorial. The substantial student population at JFK HS required that the school go to split sessions and only was able to house grades 10-12, with the freshmen classes divided between Memorial and Levitt junior high schools. In 1975, Willingboro HS was opened and became the "sister" school, located only about two miles apart - both on JFK Way. This is the way the township was until JFK HS became a middle school in 1990, leaving Willingboro as the only high school. By this time, the township population fell and Levitt Junior High School was closed to become township offices and storage. Memorial Junior High School would remain open for college classes for Burlington County College. Kennedy Middle School eventually closed and became Kennedy Center, a community center for the performing arts, an additional gym for events, and classrooms for college classes.
The S.W. Bookbinder, J.A. McGinley and Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary Schools were closed at the end of the 2005-06 school year as part of an effort to save the district an estimated $3.7 million, though the reduction of 70 staff members meant class sizes increased to as many as 28 at the five remaining elementary schools. The cuts were needed to fill a two-year budget deficit of nearly $10 million.
The Willingboro Public Library (WPL) is the municipal public library for the community. It first opened in 1960 and operates independently from the Burlington County Library System. Before 2003, the library was housed in the township’s municipal building on Salem Road. The current library building is 42,000 square feet (3,900 m2). and is an anchor for the new Willingboro Town Center on Route 130.
Roads and highways
The township had a total of 122.11 miles (196.52 km) of roadways, of which 109.02 miles (175.45 km) are maintained by the municipality, 11.53 miles (18.56 km) by Burlington County and 1.56 miles (2.51 km) by the New Jersey Department of Transportation.
Carl Lewis (born 1961), United States Olympic track athlete who won ten Olympic medals (9 gold, 1 silver) and was ranked #1 on the Sports Illustrated list of The 50 Greatest New Jersey Sports Figures.
^ abcdefgSuplee, C. (1995). Stories of Willingboro Township, New Jersey. Willingboro: Calkins Newspapers, Inc.
^Riis, J: ”How The Other Half Lives: Studies Among the Tenements of New York ”, 1890.
^ abcdeAnderson, Priscilla B. The History and Contribution of Black Americans to the Development of Willingboro, Burlington, New Jersey. Trenton, NJ: New Jersey Historical Commission - Afro-American Division, 1985
^O'Sullivan, Jeannie. "New mayor, deputy appointed in Willingboro", Burlington County Times, January 2, 2012. Accessed May 24, 2012. "During the township’s reorganization meeting on New Year’s Day, Democratic incumbents Jacqueline Jennings, Eddie Campbell Jr. and James E. Ayrer were sworn in for four-year terms on Township Council, and Jennings and Ayrer were appointed mayor and deputy mayor."
^Krebs, Rose. "Willingboro appoints new council member, names deputy mayor", Burlington County Times, October 3, 2013. Accessed December 2, 2013. "Chris Walker was appointed Tuesday to the Township Council to fill the seat left vacant by former Deputy Mayor Ken Gordon — a seat he was primed to assume in a few months anyway.Last month, a Superior Court judge declared Gordon’s seat vacant because of his lack of attendance at recent meetings.... Also Tuesday, the council appointed longtime member and former Mayor Eddie Campbell Jr. to serve as deputy mayor until it reorganizes in January."
^Hefler, Jan. "Garganio again to head Burlco Freeholder Board", The Philadelphia Inquirer, March 29, 2014. Accessed July 27, 2014. "The new director of the Burlington County Freeholder Board is Bruce Garganio, a Republican who led the five-member board for three years before he was defeated in his bid for reelection in November 2011.... Two weeks ago, the county Republican Committee tapped Garganio to fill the one-year vacancy that was created after Leah Arter resigned as freeholder director."
^Wawrow, John. "Sabres select Brennan 31st", Toronto Star, June 23, 2007. Accessed July 2, 2008. "'Once I started, I didn't want to stop,' said Brennan, a Willingboro, N.J. native, of his interest in hockey."
^Rys, Richard. "Exit Interview: Gary Dourdan", Philaldelphia magazine, June 8, 2007. Accessed December 2, 2013. "Exit Interview: How old were you when you moved to Willingboro from West Philly? Gary Dourdan: Ten or something. There was nothing in the suburbs but a house to live in."
^City High: Top of their class, MTV Music. Accessed January 9, 2011. "And for a young trio from the suburb of Willingboro, New Jersey, who go by the name of City High, those dreams left the rec room and back yard and came true. Big time."
^"CARL LEWIS SWEEPS TRIPLE IN NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP", The Miami Herald, June 20, 1983. Accessed July 20, 2007. "Lewis, a 21-year-old from Willingboro, N.J., who had won the 100 in 10.27 Saturday night, leaped a remarkable 28 feet 10¼ inches in capturing the long jump and was clocked in an American record 19.75 seconds in the 200 on the final night of the USA- Mobil Outdoor track and field championships."
^Coppock, Kristen. "No strings", Burlington County Times, November 13, 2007. Accessed May 24, 2012. "DJ Tim Marshall, a Willingboro resident who has been providing music for Champps customers since the establishment opened in 1995..."
^Hagenmayer, S. Joseph. "ROBERT MARELLA, 62, WRESTLER KNOWN AS 'GORILLA MONSOON'", The Philadelphia Inquirer, October 7., 1999. Accessed February 27, 2008. "Robert "Gorilla Monsoon" Marella, 62, a professional wrestler whose demeanor in the ring resembled Atilla the Hun's but whose deeds and personality were more akin to those of Santa Claus, died yesterday at his Willingboro home after being ill for the last month."
^Dezman Moses, Tulane Green Wave football. Accessed December 27, 2012. "High School: Four-year letterman at Willingboro High where he played wide receiver and inside linebacker for coach Nelson Hayspell... Personal: Born Dezman Mirrill Moses on Jan. 4, 1989, in Willingboro, N.J."
^Guenther, Alan. "Willingboro revives corridor", Courier-Post, April 1, 2007. Accessed December 2, 2013. "The town's history dates to 1682, when Thomas Olive became its first colonist and named the town Wellingborough, according to township records."
^Trebay, Guy. "FASHION DIARY; The Promotion Tour Known as Fashion Week", The New York Times, March 19, 2002. Accessed December 2, 2013. "'It's about the ignorance,' Steven Stoute, the executive vice president of Interscope Geffen A&M, the record company, explained the other day. Mr. Stoute was referring to Claudette Ortiz, a young singer from Willingboro, N.J., whose group, City High, was nominated for a Grammy Award this year."
^"Gervase Gets Booted Off", CBS News, August 3, 2000. Accessed May 25, 2007. "For weeks the buzz, fueled by Internet rumors, was the Willingboro N.J., resident had won the million-dollar prize, even prompting a Philadelphia newspaper to feature Peterson on one of its covers."
^Shaun Phillips player profile, San Diego Chargers. Accessed July 20, 2007. "Shaun grew up in Willingboro, New Jersey, not far from Giants Stadium where the New York Jets play their home games....all-state, All-South Jersey and all-city at Willingboro High School in Willingboro, New Jersey"
^Staff. "Bombers Sign Two Defensive Linemen", Our Sports Central, February 27, 2009. accessed December 2, 2013. "Saunders (6-3, 240, Alabama '08, DOB: Dec. 23, 1984 in Willingboro Township, NJ) is a big-bodied defensive end that was a two-year starter with the Crimson Tide."
^"SINGLETON SWORN IN AS NEWEST ASSEMBLY MEMBER", Assemblyman Troy Singleton, November 21, 2011. Accessed December 2, 2013. "Born in Philadelphia, Singleton was raised in Willingboro, NJ, and currently resides in Palmyra with his wife Megan and their three children."
^Tannewald, Jonathan. "Willingboro native Peter Vermes has the soccer world on his doorstep", Philly.com, January 12, 2012. Accessed December 2, 2013. "I know that many of you already know a thing or two about Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes. For some of you, one of those things might be that he’s a native of Willingboro, N.J., and still has the accent to prove it."