As people line up today to pay their respects to her at the Essex County Historic Courthouse where she lies in repose, and as we prepare for her funeral being held tomorrow at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart here in Newark, I wanted to share my own reflections on Ms. Oliver.

When we first met five years ago, I knew the Newark Museum of Art had a reliable friend and a fierce advocate in our Lieutenant Governor. She often recounted how much the Museum meant to her as a child growing up in Newark. Her support contributed to the Museum’s ability to emerge from the pandemic shutdown, more dynamic than ever.  She believed, as we believe, that the arts are for everyone and that the NMOA offers artists and patrons a community that is like no other place in the world.

Furthermore, her ability to get things done made her an impactful role model to me – not only as a leader appointed to one of Newark’s anchor institutions but also as an African-American woman. We met as the first African-American women to ever be in the positions we held. We shared a special bond, and I will be forever grateful for her leadership and mentorship.

But Sheila Oliver’s legacy extends far beyond that of being a barrier breaker.  Her many years of public service were marked by her unquestionable integrity, her forthright ability to speak truth to power, and her unwavering commitment to serving everyone in her constituency ­– especially those among us who have the least.

May we all keep Lieutenant Governor Oliver’s legacy alive by following in her example.


Linda C. Harrison
Director and CEO
The Newark Museum of Art