Freeport’s 19th Century notable African Americans


Part 1 of 2


Moxey Alexander Rigby (c.1894-1962), was a graduate of Freeport High School and a long time Freeport resident.  When elected to the District Court in 1959, he became the first African American to hold an elected office in the County.  Judge Rigby was vice-chairman of the Freeport Housing Authority, an agency which he helped to create, and was also a member of numerous public organizations. Born on Turks Island in the Bahamas, West Indies, Rigby was only five years old when his father, a boat captain, died.  A close friend of the family, an attorney, made a favorable impression and apparently inspired in him the ambition to be a lawyer.

His mother soon brought Moxey and a younger brother, Joe, to Freeport where he attended public schools through high school.  Upon graduation, Moxey was more determined to be an attorney.  The first law book he ever owned was given to him by Sidney Swezey, a Freeport lawyer who served as village president (mayor) from 1917 to 1918.

By becoming a waiter at the local Elks Club, he earned enough money to enroll in New York Law School.  He continued to wait on tables at the Elks throughout his undergraduate years.  Graduating from New York Law School in 1925, he was admitted to the bar that year.

After a clerkship in the law offices of George H. Beaubian in Hempstead, he opened an office in South Jamaica, Queens.  Nassau County District Attorney Edward J. Neary appointed Rigby to his staff in 1941.  Rigby served under several district sttorneys, including Edward J. Neary, James N. Gehrig, Frank A. Gulotta, and Manuel Levine.  In 1959, he was appointed a district court judge.  Judge Rigby was married to Myriam Brisbane in 1932.  He was the proud father of two children; Moxey and Cynthia, and grandfather of five.  He suffered a stroke in late 1962, and died at his Freeport residence six weeks later on December 15th. His last grandchild was born three hours before his death. 

To honor Rigby’s work in the community, the Village of Freeport renamed the Garden Court Apartments at the intersection of Buffalo Avenue and East Merrick Road to the Moxey Rigby Apartments in 1963.


Bennington Park was developed in 1902 by W. Newton Bennington on land owned by Joseph Raynor.  Streets created by Bennington included: Alexander Avenue; Bennington Avenue; Benson Place; Columbus Avenue; Fulton Street (Merrick Road); Helen Avenue; Liberty Avenue; Rhodesia Street; and Waverly Place.  Rhodesia Street disappeared around 1914 and became an extension of Benson Place.  Bennington Park became an enclave for African Americans and Italians. Most of Bennington Park as a residential area was lost during urban renewal beginning in the late 1950s into the 1980s.


GORDON WRIGHT graduated from Freeport High School in 1961.  He attended Delaware State University.  Wright played offensive guard for the Philadelphia Eagles (1967) and the New York Jets (1969). Wright’s father was Lyndon Wright, who operated Lenny’s Esso Servicecenter on Merrick Road in Bennington Park.


Part II will run next week.