The intersection of Ely and Strang avenues has a new name – Samuel Bea Jr. Way.
The late Samuel Bea Jr, a former assemblyman and activist in the Bronx, was honored on Wednesday, September 7 by family, friends and elected officials as they gathered to officially name the intersection.
Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who served in the state Assembly with Bea, said he saw in the former councilman a “a leader who stood up for issues that were important in his community.”
Bea grew up in Manhattan and moved to the Bronx with his wife Victoria in 1965.
He worked in West-chester County for Campbell Soup and was the first African American to work in the company’s Sara Lee division.
Bea was very well known for his service to the community.
He served as district manager for Community Board 12 from 1977 to 1996.
He then ran for a seat in the NYS Assembly and was reelected three times.
During his time in office Bea protested against a sex shop on Connor Street and fought the MTA’s attempt to reduce service on the IRT 5 Dyre Avenue line.
Bea was also known for his civil disobedience.
Victoria Bea said her husband’s propensity for social activism likely stemmed from his college days in the south.
“He went to school in Nashville, Tennessee,” said Bea. “ There he saw the racial division and injustice for certain people.”
Bea said her husband’s first taste of social activism could have come when he joined Martin Luther King’s March on Washington in 1963.
Councilman Andy King, who officiated the street co-naming celebration, said Bea “was most proud of his work as a community advocate, including his civil disobedience.”
King also recalled Bea’s connection to the prominent Amadou Diallo case in 1999.
“As Assembly Member, he co-sponsored the ‘Diallo Package’ of bills which were passed by the Assembly in protest to the NYPD’s handling of the officers who shot the unarmed man 41 times in front of his home, causing his death,” said King. “Assemblyman Bea was arrested for blocking the entrance of One Police Plaza as part of a citywide Civil Disobedience. He was a true leader.”
Throughout his career Bea was recognized for his work.
He received accolades from the Edenwald-Gunhill Tenants Association, the Northeast Bronx Caribbean Chamber of Commerce, the Bronx Borough President’s Citation Award, the National Council of Negro Women and the Williamsburg Branch NAACP.
After battling a long illness he passed away at the age of 80 in 2013.
Victoria, his wife of 55 years, said one of the things she loved best about her husband was his “humor and wit.”
“If you were down about something he would always lift you up and give a lighter side to it and you wouldn’t be so down,” said Bea. “He was just uplifting to me.”
Samuel Bea is survived by Victoria, three grandchildren and his children Stephen Bea and Kim Bea-Anderson.