Services for the Honorable James William Palmer Jr. will be held at Cage Memorial Funeral Home on Friday, October 16th at 11 a.m. Born in Chicago to Tax Accountant James William Palmer Sr. and Chicago Public Schools Educator Marietta Carter Palmer, Judge Palmer passed away on October 1st due to complications from diabetes in New Jersey, where he lived for over 25 years and was a Judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey in the Ocean County Vicinage.
He was a graduate of William H. Ray Elementary School (1970) and Kenwood High School (1974), where he ran varsity track and held leadership positions on the school newspaper and yearbook. While growing up in the Chatham community, he was a member of St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church and joined Boy Scout Troop 534 at St. Mark United Methodist Church.
A lifelong member of the Boy Scouts of America, James completed over 40 merit badges while earning the rank of Eagle Scout (1973). It was just the beginning of honors for Judge Palmer who remained committed to diversity, personally mentoring over eighty African-American youth to further their education and advance within scouting. Among the positions he held within the organization were the Boy Scouts Jersey Shore Council President (1996-1999), NE Region Area 5 Vice President (2008-2018), NE Region Board Member (2000-2019) and 2019 World Jamboree U.S. Host Committee Member (2016-2020). In acknowledgement of his service, the Boy Scouts awarded him the Silver Beaver and Silver Antelope Awards.
In the fall of 1974, he enrolled in Morehouse College, where he double majored in Political Science and Business Administration, earning his Bachelor’s degree in three years. While at Morehouse, he pledged Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and was initiated into the Alpha Rho Chapter in the Fall of 1975, as a member of the Sagacious 17. He would serve as President of Alpha Rho Chapter from 1976 until his graduation in 1977.
He would go on to earn an M.B.A. degree with a concentration in Management from Roosevelt University in Chicago in 1978 and his Juris Doctorate from the Indiana University Maurer School of Law in Bloomington, Indiana in 1981. He accepted his first job as an attorney with General Motors in Detroit, Michigan. While there, James met and married his late wife, Rasheda Ann Palmer, in 1985. Rasheda and James would be blessed with a daughter, Arielle Loren Palmer, in 1989 whom they would raise together until Rasheda’s passing in 1993.
While working as an attorney on Wall Street, James would balance fatherhood while attending night school to earn his LLM in Taxation from New York University. He would become a tax director at AT&T where he would meet and later marry Deborah Ann Palmer in 1996, gaining a son, Bryson David Palmer. In 1997, Deborah and James Jr. would welcome another daughter, Amber Gabrielle Palmer, to the family.
Over the years, he would contribute his time passionately serving civic and community organizations throughout the state of New Jersey. Among them included leadership and Board Memberships with CentraState Medical Center, American Cancer Society, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and Boy Scouts of America.
In addition to scouting, James remained an active member of his churches, Macedonia Baptist Church and United Church of Christ of Toms River, N.J. as both church President and Deacon for many years. James was a pillar of his community and well known for his love of Christ and religious studies. A strong proponent of furthering one’s knowledge, James obtained a Master’s in Higher Education Administration (his third) from Columbia University in 2005. In 2016, while attending the New York Theological Seminary, James pursued a Doctorate in Multifaith Ministry and Theology.
On January 14, 2009, he was sworn in as a Judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, serving in the family, law and criminal divisions. In September 2014, Judge Palmer was transferred to the Ocean County Vicinage and was assigned to the Law Division, Special Civil Part as the Supervising Judge, presiding over Landlord Tenant, Small Claims and Special Civil matters. He was granted tenure as a Judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey on December 19, 2015.
He practiced law for over twenty-seven years in several corporate legal and tax departments, law firms and as a solo practitioner. He served the Judiciary, as the chair of the Ocean Vicinage Advisory Committee on Minority Concerns (2000-2020); chair of the New Jersey State Conference of Vicinage Advisory Committees (2001-2020); and a member of the Executive Committee of the New Jersey Supreme Court Committee on Minority Concerns (2001-2020). Judge Palmer was also a member of the Indiana Bar, the U.S. Tax Court Bar, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims Bar, the New Jersey Bar and the U.S. Supreme Court Bar.
Judge Palmer was beloved by many and believed deeply in servant leadership, human compassion and equity in the U.S. judicial system. Even greater than his fruitful professional career, his legacy and treasured memories live on as a proud father of three and a fun-loving grandfather of three.
He was preceded in death by his first wife, Rasheda A. Palmer, and leaves to cherish his memory three children: Bryson D. Palmer (Asha), Arielle L. Palmer and Amber G. Palmer; the mother of his children, Deborah A. Palmer; his three grandchildren, Brinkley D. Palmer, Bailey D. Palmer, and Bryson D. Palmer Jr.; his parents, Marietta and James W. Palmer Sr.; his sister, Dr. Shari L. Palmer and a host of other relatives to whom he dedicated his legacy and life. He will be laid to rest at Lincoln Cemetery in Alsip.