The Mary Gilligan Preservation Award

T. Thomas Fortune Foundation and Cultural Center

At this year’s annual breakfast fundraiser event, the Woman’s Club of Red Bank is presenting the inaugural Mary Gilligan Preservation Award to Gilda Rogers and Roger Mumford for their preservation work on the T. Thomas Fortune Foundation house.

What is the Mary Gilligan Preservation Award?

This award was created in memory of Mary Gilligan who passed away this year. Mary had been an integral part of preserving our historic clubhouse, The Reckless Estate. For those readers who aren’t familiar with the history of our clubhouse and why it is called The Reckless Estate – click here to learn more about the History of the Reckless Estate. Mary worked tirelessly with Ellen Davis and others in the Preservation Committee to write grants to help us maintain our historic clubhouse.

Who is receiving the Mary Gilligan Preservation Award?

We are presenting the Mary Gilligan Preservation Award to Gilda Rogers and Roger Mumford for their incredible work in the restoration of the T. Thomas Fortune House on 94 Drs. James Parker Blvd. in Red Bank.

Gilda Rogers

Gilda Rogers is woman of many talents. She is a Journalist, Author & Playwright, Producer, Director, Historian, and Educator.   Gilda thrives in a creative platform as she started her art career as a visual artist, window dresser, and fashion coordinator for several national retail chains. Her passion for telling stories and being the voice for the voiceless led her to journalism and to write books and prepare videos.   

As a journalist, Gilda received a journalism award, called the T. Thomas Fortune Award. She wasn’t familiar with who T. Thomas Fortune was and began researching him. Gilda is passionate about justice and she led the grassroots effort to save and preserve the former home of T. Thomas Fortune, a National Historic Landmark. Mr. Fortune was one of the greatest African-American journalists and newspaper editors and a courageous social justice crusader.

Gilda worked tirelessly with Roger Mumford to preserve and restore Mr. Fortune’s home.   Ms. Rogers is now the Executive Director of the  T. Thomas Fortune Foundation & Cultural Center.

Roger Mumford

Roger Mumford of Roger Mumford Homes restored the home and donated it as a cultural center, now the T. Thomas Fortune Cultural Center.

Roger Mumford emigrated to the US as a 7-year-old in the early 1960s.   At the time, he lived in rural southern Virginia, where the perplexity of whites-only signs was prominent but made no sense to the young Roger Mumford.  By 1970, Mr. Mumford had moved to NJ, and, decades later having an office located around the corner from Fortune’s Maple Hall.  Mr. Mumford is a self-made developer who has developed over 75 innovative communities across NJ. He was the co-founder of the Matzel and Mumford Organization and Roger Mumford Homes.   Mr. Mumford has been honored with numerous industry awards including Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award for Real Estate.

In the years since leaving rural Virginia, he was always empathetic to the plight of civil rights for African Americans.  Consequently, as he sat in his office around the corner from the Thomas Fortune house and not knowing its significance,  happened to read a story written by Gilda Rogers published in the New York Times about the plight of the historic building, and, believed he had a creative solution for all constituencies involved.  

Mr. Mumford invited Gilda Rogers to a meeting at his office and shared his idea as to how they could jointly proceed and save the Thomas Fortune House.  After obtaining all approvals, Mr. Mumford purchased the property and meticulously  restored “Maple Hall”, later contributing the restored home to the T. Thomas Fortune Foundation.  In 2019,  Maple Hall reopened as the nonprofit T. Thomas Fortune Cultural Center, dedicated to advancing Mr.  Fortune’s social justice agenda.  

T. Thomas Fortune and his Red Bank House

Timothy Thomas Fortune, aka T. Thomas Fortune, was born in 1856 and freed by the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. He became a trailblazer in journalism, business, civil rights, and many other areas including women’s suffrage. He played a significant role in the civil rights movement. Fortune was the owner and editor of the New York Globe and later the New York Age. He fearlessly highlighted issues of racial injustice and inequality, promoting social and political change through his writings. His influential works include his 1884 book “Black and White(it can be read for free in the files) which emphasized the importance of education, self-reliance, equality, and empowerment. Some of his newspapers and articles can be found on the subscription website by Ancestry.

The T. Thomas Fortune Foundation offers tours of this historic house – go to for more information.

Trailblazing Through Time: Women Who Mean Business

The annual breakfast, the Trailblazing Through Time: Women Who Mean Business event will be held on October 21st and is the event that the Mary Gilligan Preservation Award will be presented to the two honorees, Gilda Rogers and Roger Mumford.

Learn more about the event here.