For almost six decades, the Rev. David McAlpin Jr. has had strong ties to the Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church.
In 1957, he was installed as the first associate pastor at the historic black congregation.
“I don’t see anything unusual about my new position,” he told the local press at the time. “It’s quite natural for me, quite natural for the people of Witherspoon Church, and quite natural for Christians.”
In addition to his work with the congregation, McAlpin fought locally to expose discriminatory practices in real estate as blacks sought to purchase homes in all white neighborhoods, and he worked to establish an integrated housing project in Princeton Township. He was also involved in launching two exemplary integrated housing projects, Glenacres in West Windsor and Maplecrest in Princeton.
The Witherspoon Presbyterian Church and the Robeson House Committee honored McAlpin for those efforts and his career devoted to serving the community at the congregation’s 175th anniversary dinner Sunday night.
A Princeton native, McAlpin graduated from Princeton University in 1950 and Union Theological Seminary In New York in 1953, the same year he married Joan Rockefeller. He served as the pastor of Presbyterian churches in New Jersey and Michigan and has been retired since 1993. He was a founder of Habitat for Humanity of Trenton in 1986, and served as its president until 2012. He also served as trustee and of The New Jersey Association on Correction, The Princeton Blairstown Center, The Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Association, The Historical Society of Princeton, and the Union Theological Seminary in New York.
“Unlike Paul Robeson, the tone and timbre of his voice did not carry David McAplin Jr. to the concert Hall. But like Paul, his voice called out loud and clear for social justice,” said Robeson House Committee Member Kevin Wilkes when introducing the award.
“Like Paul Robeson, David McAlpin Jr. has championed the causes that are dear to many Princetonians hearts. Acknowledging our history, understanding our needs for change from the ways of the past, envisioning a progressive future and striving for high artistic and cultural standards while we build our new brotherhood – these are hallmarks of the thinking of these two great men,” Wilkes said.
“Situated on the opposite edges of the twentieth century but overlapping during our civil rights conversations and struggle, they both knew this before Dr. King told us so on August 28, 1963: `Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children’.”