Thomas Higgins, 78, freeholder and lawyer

Thomas Higgins
Thomas Higgins
Posted: January 15, 2014

"Camden County lost a dedicated public servant with the passing of Thomas Higgins," Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli Jr. wrote in a statement Monday on behalf of the board of freeholders.

"Tom never forgot his humble beginnings in Camden City, and dedicated himself to helping those who were unable to help themselves.

"Tom was truly a man of intelligence and integrity."

Mr. Higgins, 78, who served as a freeholder in the early 1970s and had been a lawyer for the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, died Friday, Jan. 10, of pulmonary fibrosis at Brandywine Senior Living at Voorhees.

Cappelli described Mr. Higgins as "one of the most respected environmental lawyers in our region."

And, he said, Mr. Higgins "participated in the planning, financing, and construction of the countywide wastewater treatment facilities in Camden County and countywide wastewater treatment facilities and solid waste facilities in Cape May County."

Mr. Higgins, he said, "taught us all what it truly meant to serve our fellow citizens and give something back to our community."

Born during the Depression, Mr. Higgins grew up in a rooming house with his mother and older brother. His father had died at 35, when Mr. Higgins was 9, son Daniel said.

A childhood case of rheumatic fever "left him with a permanently damaged heart," his son said, but it did not stop his work as an occasional salesman for a firm marketing house trailers in high school and college to pay for his education.

At Camden Catholic High School, his son said, Mr. Higgins was captain of a nationally recognized debate team and the lead in the school play as a senior.

At St. Joseph's University, Mr. Higgins was captain of the Villiger Speech and Debate Society, which competed against teams from Harvard University and the University of Oxford, among others.

Mr. Higgins graduated from Villanova University Law School in 1961, his son said. "He was a bus driver while in law school, on routes from Atlantic City to New York."

In 1960, the Camden County Bar Association awarded him its Ralph W. Donges Scholarship, his son said.

After being named a Gloucester Township municipal judge at 28 in 1963, he was named an assistant county prosecutor in 1964.

Mr. Higgins was the unsuccessful Democratic candidate for the House in 1968, in the district now represented by Rep. Robert E. Andrews, and then became a special deputy attorney general.

As a freeholder in the early 1970s, his son said, he improved the indigents' graveyards at Lakeland Cemetery in Blackwood, and helped expand the county library system and courthouse annex.

Mr. Higgins was a member of the campaign finance committee for Gov. James J. Florio when Florio won in 1989 and lost in 1993, his son said, and worked for Florio's unsuccessful primary campaign in 1977 and general election campaign in 1981.

He served Florio as vice chairman of the New Jersey Health Care Facilities Finance Authority and helped write Florio's successful nomination for the John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award.

Mr. Higgins owned the Little World of Learning, a child care center in Washington Township, and was a partner in the Lagoon Restaurant & Lounge in Brigantine, N.J.

Besides his son, Mr. Higgins is survived by sons Thomas S. Jr. and Sean; daughters Kathleen, Colleen Quick, Kimberly Klodnicki, and Maureen Bergeron; a brother, and 12 grandchildren.

A visitation was set from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 14, at Platt Memorial Chapels, 2001 Berlin Rd., Cherry Hill. A Funeral Mass was set for 10 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 15, at St. Andrew the Apostle Church, 27 Kresson-Gibbsboro Rd., Gibbsboro.

Condolences may be e-mailed to the family at

610-313-8134 @WNaedele


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