View Full Version : RIP - George Branch

09-02-2009, 03:38 PM
George 'Buddy Gee' Branch, former Newark councilman, boxer, trainer, dies at 80
by David Giambusso/The Star-Ledger
Tuesday September 01, 2009, 8:10 PM


NEWARK -- Remembered as a tireless champion of seniors and kids, former Newark City Councilman George "Buddy Gee" Branch died today in North Carolina, family and friends said.

"George's motto was never look down on a man unless you intend to pick him up," his wife, Joyce Branch, said today from her North Carolina home. "He carried that through with politics and his life."

Branch was elected to the Newark City Council in 1982 and represented the Central Ward for 16 years before losing the seat to Cory Booker in a closely watched -- and at times acrimonious -- election. But Booker, along with friends and family, remembered Branch fondly today as a man who left the battle in the ring.

"When the fight is over, it's over," Mrs. Branch said of her husband's philosophy.

"It's the passing of one of our legends," said Booker, now the city's mayor. "My first entry into politics was going up against the lion of the Central Ward." Despite the tough race, Booker said Branch always carried himself with "dignity and honor."

The son of sharecroppers, the 80-year-old former boxer moved from North Carolina to Newark with his family in the early 1940s. He dropped out of school at age 16 to support his mother and siblings. Branch discovered fighting as a means to earn money, but he never forgot the lesson he learned from friend Kelley Marx, then-owner of the Clinton Milk Co.

"If you ever want to do anything in the world, you have to read the paper," Marx told Branch, according to his wife. He would return to night school years later to get his high school diploma and eventually a bachelor's degree in urban studies from Saint Peter's College.

After his own boxing career ended, Branch helped coach scores of other fighters, some of whom went on to win golden gloves. But throughout, he sought to counsel and raise money for the kids of Newark, according to his longtime friend and ally Councilman Charles Bell.

"He worked for the young people from Project Pride to passing legislation," Bell said today, calling Branch a "champion of the people -- from maintenance workers to corporate giants."

Project Pride, co-founded by Branch, Bell and Star-Ledger sports columnist emeritus Jerry Izenberg, provides money for citywide sports programs. The bulk of the funding comes from the annual Pride Bowl, a major October football game between Division III teams.

Branch was also widely credited with helping to oversee the rebuilding of the Central Ward after the 1967 Newark riots. In addition to housing, Branch helped a dozen churches acquire city land to build sanctuaries, schools and community centers.

Twenty-six years ago, Branch met his wife at a Christmas party thrown by then-Councilman Ralph Grant.

"We went through a lengthy courtship -- two years -- today that's lengthy," she said. The couple would have celebrated their 24th anniversary in less than two weeks.

"I haven't regretted a day since," Mrs. Branch said today from her North Carolina home, where the couple moved after Branch underwent a brain operation in 2004. In declining health, Branch had returned to his native North Carolina both for the climate and to be near his children, two of whom are doctors.

"The move was a necessity," Mrs. Branch said.

The couple has two other children and four grandchildren who will be returning to Newark this weekend for a Saturday 11 a.m. funeral at St. James AME Church. The funeral is likely to see major turnout from the Newark political establishment, as well as countless community members.

"Wherever he went people knew, loved and respected him," Bell said today. "That will be the summation of Councilman George Branch."

George Branch was Inducted into the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame on November 9, 1995.

Thanks, Henry

09-02-2009, 05:17 PM
He was also Ron Lipton's trainer at one one.

Ron Lipton
09-02-2009, 07:32 PM
I am deeply saddened by this loss. I loved Buddy Gee very much and spoke with him before he moved. I met him as a 15 year old boy and we stayed friends ever since. He was in my corner for over 20 of my fights and for my second record KO on TV in 16 seconds in Newark at Symphony Hall.
He is the man who set up the meeting with me and Hurricane Carter and he had me in the ring with all his fighters like Lloyd Marshall always helping me to learn to be a better fighter.

Here is a picture from my website of George and me in the ring awaiting the other fighter's entrance in Symphony Hall July 5, 1966 for the TV fight. George is standing in the middle.

My condolonces to Joyce and all the family.

Rest in Peace my dear friend and thanks so much for being in my corner in the ring and in life.

love forever,

09-03-2009, 03:40 PM
George Thomas Branch

George Thomas Branch, the eldest son of Villa and Thomas Branch, was born on Oct. 10, 1928, in Seaboard, N.C., and departed this life on Sept. 1, 2009. An open visitation will be held at St. James A.M.E. Church, 588 Dr. Martin L. King Jr. Blvd., Newark, commencing on Friday from 12 noon to 8 p.m. The family will be present to receive guests Friday from noon to 2 p.m. and again from 5 to 8 p.m. The celebration of his life will be held on Saturday at 11 a.m. at the church. Interment will be private. Arrangements are by Whigham Funeral Home. At age five, George and his family moved to Newark, where he attended Wickliffe Street Elementary and graduated from Central High Evening School. He continuted his education by attending Rutgers University and finally completed his studies with a bachelor of science degree in urban studies from St. Peter's College in Jersey City, N.J. George had an outstanding professional and political career. He was a recreation specialist for the Newark Housing Authority. George, also known as "Buddy Gee," was a contender for the welterweight boxing crown, and won 18 of 22 bouts. Mr. Branch served for six years as a member of the Newark Board of Education. He later owned and operated Branch Sanitary Laundry Service. Culminating his illustrious career, George was the longest serving Central Ward councilman, having served for 16 years. George was very compassionate in his commitment to help his community. He always said, "Never look down on a man unless you intend to pick him up." He developed numerous programs and activities that provided social, educational and economic benefits for thousands of Newarkers from all walks of life. As a Newark Board of Education member, George helped organize and implement the annual Board of Education and Newark Central Ward Athletic Association Decathlon. Under the leadership of former mayor Kenneth Gibson, George co-founded the original Newark Project Pride and football games, where thousands of young people benefited from scholarships, tutoring and mentoring programs. The recipient of numerous awards and a member of many community organizations, he leaves to mourn his death his beloved wife, Joyce; his brother, James (Lola) Branch; a son, George (Chante) Johnson; a daughter, Jacklyn Slappy; two stepchildren, Carlton (Michelle) Moore and Phillip Moore; four grandchildren, and a host of other relatives and friends. In lieu of flowers, kindly make donations to the Combatt Gym, 205 Spruce St., Newark, N.J. 07108, or the Duke Home Care/Hospice, 1001 Corporate Dr., Hillsborough, N.C. 27278.

Thanks, Henry

Ron Lipton
09-05-2009, 06:39 PM
Today I attented my old trainer's funeral in Newark. I was given a chance to speak and share some of that love that I have for Buddy Gee, George Branch and all the times he was in my corner for my fights.

The speakers and dignitaries did a great job. Henry Hascup did an excellent job as did Larry Hazzard Sr in their very heart warming words on George's behalf. Absolutely outstanding.

It was espeically wonderful for me to see my old friend Lloyd Marshall the great 7th rated former lightweight in the world. He was one of the first boxers to spar with me in my career and I haven't seen him since until today.

It really warmed my heart to see him well.

All in all a very sad day for the Branch family and for us that loved him to say goodbye. I shared so many great boxing moments in combat with him by my side.

R.I.P. Buddy Gee.

09-05-2009, 08:31 PM
Yes, I was also their and I had the honor of speaking and ringing the bell 9 times at the end of the 3 hour service. One of the best speeches was from our very own Ron Lipton. He told the story of when he was only 15 years old and had no place to stay and George Branch showed him the right direction.

Ron had us all laughing with the story of when he first met Rubin Hurricane Carter. Here's most of what he said:

My name is Ron Lipton and I was a lifelong friend of George Branch. I am 63 years old and George was in my corner for over 20 of my amateur fights. We had gone into battle many times in the NJ Golden Gloves and on TV fights where I set the record fast KO in NJ of 6 seconds with George in my corner on July 5, 1966 at Symphony Hall Newark NJ. He is the one who first taught me how to box when I was 15 years old at Mooksie's gym in Newark NJ. He was going to night school at the time and never charged me a penny to be in my corner or work with me everyday.

I later became a police officer and Prosectuor's Office Investigator and I am now retired.

George and I stayed in touch and we had perhaps the most unique relationship which God had designed personally to bring us together. It is so prophetic it defies all earthy description and I will share it with you briefly here. Many people most likely want to speak at his service. I would have to come hundreds of miles and take off work to be there. What I have to say to pay homage to George is unique. It had to be designed by God because no man could have made this happen. It is far beyond any political or symbiotic relationship, it was as I say designed by God and this has been proven to be true.

I won a Lifetime Civil Rights Award presented to me in the year 2000 by the then Mayor of Poughkeepsie NY. In 2007 I was awarded the N.A.A.C.P. Man of Distinction Award presented to me in Fishkill. All of this was a seed that George planted that grew into a Redwood tree, when as a 15 year old boy I asked him to arrange a meeting with me and Rubin "Hurricane" Carter at Mooksie’s gym where Rubin had previously trained.

I was a boy filled with anger, homeless, and fighting on the street all the time. I had to sleep at the gym as my parents had broken up. George trained me every day and had me box with Lloyd Marshall and all his fighters watching over me like a mother hen. He traveled with me for all my fights and was in my corner all the time in an out of that ring.

George said he knew him and he used to train with him, but he said, "I will be honest with you Mister, he does not like white guys, but I have a feeling he just might like you." I said ok, set it up and lets him and me get together. George said, "Ordinarily I would say forget it, but I have a good feeling about this and God wants you two guys to meet, just don't say the wrong thing to him, promise me that." I said ok.

In early 1962 he brought Rubin back to Mookises and I was there waiting. Rubin came upstairs to meet this audacious 15 year old kid Buddy Gee told him about The whole gym was quiet and he walked over to me, and I said, "I hear you are looking for another white boy to beat up on, I want a job as your sparring partner." Carter looked deep into my heart, you could have heard a pin drop, he then broke up laughing and put his arm around me and gave me a job and home and kept me with him all the time.

We stayed together for over 4 years until he went to prison. I became a police officer and a Hudson County Prosectuor's Investigator and worked on his case to free him. I went and got Muhammad Ali involved in the case and got Ali to make bail for Rubin's retrial. I visited Carter or 19 years and 7 months in prison every month and finally he was freed in 1985. Everything I fought for came true and finally I was believed after losing my home, job and family over the Carter case pressures.

On March 25, 1987 on National TV on the NewSport Talk Show in a National Telecast played over 8 times worldwide Carter said, "If it wasn't for Ron Lipton I would not be here today, Ron is the only one who got Muhammad Ali involved and Ron is a person of strength and dignity." In 1982 members of the KKK burned a cross on my lawn, Muhammad Ali, came to a self defense trial where I was acquitted of fighting back against them, Ali said in the Star Ledger in Jan 82, Ron Lipton sacrificed everything to free Rubin Carter, he came and got me, and there is no one in the world I would do this for.

All of this is from George Branch knowing that God told him to put Rubin Carter and Ron Lipton a troubled homeless white kid together with the toughest black militant of the 60's.

As the years went by I fought the corruption in boxing as I had become an international pro boxing referee who refereed Holyfield, Roy Jones Jr, Oscar Delahoya, Roberto Duran, Pernell Whitiker and other champs on HBO.