146: JT Murphy Le Kid de China Town

Jt Murphy Eatontown Skatepark Ken Salerno photo

JT Murphy Eatontown Skate Park

Photo Ken Salerno (you know the guy that takes pics that end up in THRASHER!)

Wanted to put together a cool post about JT for along time. I remember him freestyle skating in the flat bottom of the ramp while people were putting on or taking off their pads before or after some session. Corn was the only one I knew who had a freestyle board other then JT and other then Corn and Weep I dont know anyone who could get a grip on one of those things…(but we all secretly tried). Corn has an entire skate Demo on film that he (JT) did at Watchung Hills Regional (skate academy) High School in 85 or so. During which Jt even managed to drag Tom Groholski (who was there to watch) out onto the gym floor and do some kinda boneless over him..a true showman. Someday we will stream the whole thing here for people to see.    jason

Hey Jason

We grew up in a small beach town in NJ.  We street skated daily like a religion.  We spend countless hours on the boardwalk in Seaside Heights in search of anything to ride.  At that time, most of the surf shops in our area were just that, surf shops and the skating in the small town was getting a little tired.

A new shop had opened up over the bridge in Toms River and there was an abandoned lot next to it.  The shop sold skateboards, hosted skate demos, and had a place to skate.  That was our new hang.  One weekend day it was business as usual at the launch ramp and parking blocks when two guys approached us.  They were from the newly formed Eastern Skateboard Association.  It was Art Gracey and JT Murphy, inviting us to the first contest in Kearny, NJ.

The ESA went on to support and organize many contest through NJ and the east. At the same time, skating in the northeast was getting huge.  There was a lot attention coming from NYC with the news of a new skate crew called SHUT skates.  The ESA provided another platform for exposure for these and other emerging skaters.  JT worked as a bio-chemist or something tricky like that in the daytime and spend his weekends and free time volunteering his efforts promoting East Coast Skateboarding.

Over the years I had come to appreciate him as one of my dearest friends.  Both he and his wife, Donna, were about the coolest adopted siblings  any wayward skater could ask for.  They had these great halloween parties where we got to mix with a while different crowd. It was my first association with older people who respected skateboarding and never viewed it as a form of public destruction.  We were always welcomed.  They turned me on to more great music, food and life than they could have known.

I will always consider JT as one of the most influential people of my youth.  There are few things I do, to this day, that didn’t begin because of JT Murphy.

Derek Rinaldi



This is what reporter Jean François VIBERT had to say about JT Murphy

Check it out.

If anyone would like to add to this post please feel free to email me.

jason oliva

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13 thoughts on “146: JT Murphy Le Kid de China Town

  1. Tom

    I agree with Derek in full. JT helped alot of kids find themselves and their own way. He was a great inspiration to me in skating, art, music, travel, friendship and just about everything else.

  2. PVO Paul van Orden

    Thanks for posting stuff on JT Murphy ( Jim Murphy Clifton Skateboarder)

    Derek’s words about JT reminded me of JT immediately on many levels.

    I feel obligated to say a bit about JT, many years after the death of a dear friend. The same year I Iost JT, I lost another dear friend Frank Merlo. Frank was an old friend of JT’s, an early skateboarder from Montclair, and the guy who founded the first mountain bike shop in the NJ /NYC area in Montclair on the main street there.

    I was up late, not sleeping well and reminiscing about the past. Hopefully my words are coherent.

    I was a kid who grew up in Kearny, New Jersey (and later Newark and Jersey City). Back in the day (1983-1987-ish) we had quite a vibrant skateboard scene In Kearny. It was because of all the heart and soul that JT had put into our little skate community. I have fond memories of how he has influenced my life. He influenced me to be a vegetarian, to be political, to fight for the little guy, to be mentally and spiritually sound, and to enjoy the little moments in life that mean so much later in life.

    JT (jim) Murphy was a hero to so many. He was a brilliant man. A talented poet and writer, and an accomplished research scientist and biologist. The recent movie Death to Dogtown or Death to Downtown or whatever it was called, probably never talked about JT’s importance on the NYC scene. He had far more influence on the whole NJ/ NYC scene then anyone will ever know.

    JT was key to inspiring so many amazing riders/ artists. At a time in the mid to late 80’s many people thought the contests he helped organize were not important to skateboarding. I disagree with that perspective. I feel his key role early on in organizing contests in Kearny and other places for the ESA ( Eastern Skateboarding Association) changed many peoples’ lives. I know he had a direct effect in helping open the door for Mike Vallely, and many other accomplished pros and forgotten riders.

    JT opened the door to skating for me personally. I decided to move out to San Francisco when I turned 18 to look for sponsors. JT’s lessons as the perpetual zen skate master gave me the insight and self confidence to realize we were ripping as hard as any lame Cali dudes. A few months into living in California, I reached a dream of getting sponsored by Skull Skates. JT was a major part of that fun and rewarding point in my life.

    I eventually tried my hand at a few major contests and entered Savanna Slamma II for Skull Skates as a Pro. Fausto from Thrasher was a dick to me as an East Coast rider and a rider for Skull Skates. I did not back down when he said I could not enter because of some silly rule he pulled out of his hat. JT taught me well how and why to fight for your beliefs. And I was able to resist the Cali elitist BS in skateboarding and entered contrary to Fausto’s wishes. That would never have happened if JT had not taught me to just go for anything with full heart, whether it was skateboarding, music, art, or politics.

    I can remember moving out to Portland Oregon over 13 years ago. I had lost contact with so many NJ/NYC friends. I got word from Frank Merlo, (may he rest in peace), that JT was going to play at a renowned punk rock club called EJ’s with his goth band Sunshine Blind. It had been so many years since I last saw JT. Frank and I went to the show. It would be the last time I saw JT. It was like old times and was great to just see him that night. It was probably the last time any of the old crew from Kearny, Clifton Passaic, Brick, Tom’s River– made contact with Jim.

    I could tell he was trying to exercise his demons in the form of fighting depression, but never thought he would be gone several months later. It was one of the saddest moments of my life to get the news from Frank Merlo. And then to lose Frank in a motorcycle accident on the way to my house a few months later. It fucked me up badly.

    JT is an unsung hero of the NJ/ NYC skateboarding scene. He helped everyone back in that day get credit for how hard we were riding. He had an infinite depth of character and a resounding love for his fellow human beings.

    I think I may have thanked you before for your efforts on this blog, but I must especially thank you for the heart and soul contained in a few simple photographs and videos of JT here on your pages.

    If anyone from back in the day, or today for that matter, is coming out to Portland Oregon on a trip. Please find me on Facebook. I won’t put my e-mail on here to minimize spam. But, I would enjoy showing you the City I have come to love.

    I can share some of the lessons of being a caring dude that JT imparted in me. I have learned well from his actions back East in helping to create an amazing skateboarding scene in New Jersey and more importantly a community vibe. I hope that sense of place and a skate community is continuing on today.

    Keep Skating,

    Paul van Orden

  3. Marianne Murphy


    I miss my brother and it gives me great comfort to have his memory and spirit shared in so many others, and to have these things shared is immortality, to me.

    Thank you for the gift of memory.

    Marianne Murphy

  4. Jeannie Stewart Munro

    Paul: Thank for the the wonderful post and my heart goes out to Marianne as I too lost my brother Tom another handsome Irishman to tragedy in 1993. My brother was a friend of J.T’s and they shared many of the same traits, they were both risk takers, had killer smiles, twinkling eyes, and were tremendous athletes and leaders in their sport. My brother Tom was tragically killed in an avalanche while skiing out of bounds near his home in Colorado. I would love to get in touch with Donna as J.T., Donna and I were friends in College. I loved them both. I have a nine year old boy who is into skateboarding and I was looking up J.T to try to get them together when I learned about his tragic death. He was full of charm, intelligence and was of the warmest most genuine people that I have ever met. I bet he and my brother Tom are hanging out together as we speak. Jeannie

  5. Lois Bobrowski (Murphy)

    I am JT’s mom. I have not seen this website until now and I am so touched to read the wonderful memories and thoughts about my beloved son. I miss him terribly and I am glad that others remember all the amazing qualities that JT had.

    1. kellyv

      Dear Lois, Jt was a wonderful soul and he shared his light with everyone, even us skaterdater girls who tagged along the crew. JT and friends agreed to hive a demo at my Mom’s school, in fact it was the first SHUT crew public demo put together through Rodney and I . He was wonderful with the kids and had a duality of fun and focus, sharing his love of skating, science , and animals. I too was welcomed into he and Donna’s home and cherish those memories. He gave SO much,and I still watch the video of him shot in Warren in 1990 all the time , thanks to youtube. He touched many lives and lives on in many hearts.

    2. Gillian Titus Ardini

      Mrs Bobrowski
      Gillian Titus here. Remember me? I loved and dated you son (James T.) in the 80s. The loss your family must feel is potent. I am sooo very sorry for this HUGE loss for one of the greatest men I every gotten to love and be loved by
      I’m reaching out to find out what happened to the man I feel in love w in Ship Bottom, NJ.
      Please anything you able to spare.
      Thank you

      1. Marianne Murphy

        Hello, Gillian! How could anyone possibly forget you?! It is nice to hear from you.
        My brother decided to leave this “mortal coil” August 30, 1998. You may contact me directly if you would like to discuss it any further. marianne.murphy@gmail.com

      2. Ella


        You can contact me at 111ella.grace111@gmail dot com I knew JT the last years of his life.

        Respectfully yours,

  6. John McAdams

    I knew JT from Metropolis in Bloomfield. He opened so many doors for so many people. I always think about him this time of year because his Halloween parties were a wonderful melting pot of people brought together by their love of one man. I remember him at a few contests when he was the only one riding freestyle. He truly was one of a kind.

  7. Ella Wynn

    JT was a great man and taught me so much about self love, self respect and believing in your heart. I miss him dearly and can not believe that it’s almost been 15 years now. He changed my life for the better in so many ways.

    1. Marianne murphy

      I can not express how much it means to our family that there are others who still carry and share his memory and his spirit. Today marks the 15th year of my brother’s departure, but JT will always be a part of those who knew and loved him. I miss him. Because of him I tie my shoes backwards…you see, when he taught me how – he stood in front of me, so I learned it in a mirror image! Love you, JT!


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