NEWARK, NJ — Newark recently honored Dr. Abdul Salaam, formerly known as Leo McCallum, by posthumously renaming the section of Johnson Avenue in Newark at West Bigelow Street after the dentist.
A native of Newark, Salaam graduated from Newark’s South Side High School in 1947, then served as a dental lab technician for the U.S. Army for 18 months. He ultimately earned a DDS degree from Columbia School of Dentistry and began his dental practice in 1956 on the 100 block of Johnson Avenue.
In 1958, Salaam and his wife, Edwina Marshall, whom he married in 1954, accepted the teachings of the Nation of Islam and helped open the first temple in Newark, where he served as Fruit of Islam captain and assistant minister, alongside his wife who was appointed secretary of Temple No. 25 by Elijah Muhammad, the leader of NOI. Their work continued and he became the NOI’s first president.
In addition to his work as a dentist, Salaam became the first African American to import and distribute an English translation of the Quran, and he opened a bookstore in New York City in 1969 known as Books & Things. In 1971, upon the request of Muhammad, Salaam and his wife relocated to Chicago, where he served as personal dentist for Muhammad, Malcolm X and Louis Farrakhan.
Salaam died in 2018, leaving behind his wife, his brother, five children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great-great grandchildren, nieces, nephews, family and friends.
Photos Courtesy of Kathleen Witcher