AP reports that Basil Paterson, a longtime New York political powerhouse and the father of former Gov. David Paterson, has died, his family said Thursday. He was 87.
Paterson died at 10 p.m. Wednesday at Mount Sinai Hospital, according to a family statement that did not give the cause of death. He would have turned 88 on April 27.
The Democrat served as a state senator, deputy New York City mayor and New York’s first black secretary of state. He was part of the influential “Gang of Four” that included New York City’s first black mayor, David Dinkins, political powerbroker and civil rights activist Percy Sutton, and U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel. They built a power base that made Harlem a launching pad for the state’s black leadership and opened doors for African-American businesses.
“I feel a tremendous personal loss,” Dinkins said. “He was a dear friend for a long time.”
“He did so much for so many of us … He’ll be remembered as a very, very smart guy who cared about his community,” added Dinkins, who said he had visited Paterson at the hospital.
Rangel said Paterson recently had heart surgery and had suffered some health setbacks in the last few years. The congressman said he visited him at the hospital several weeks ago and that he appeared strong as the two spoke about the future of New York and the country.
“I’ve never heard an unkind word about Basil Paterson in the over 60 years that I’ve known him,” Rangel said.
In the 1960s, Paterson served in the state Senate, representing the Upper West Side and Harlem. He gave up his seat in 1970 to run for lieutenant governor, a race he lost. He served briefly as deputy mayor in the Ed Koch administration before being appointed as New York’s secretary of state in 1979, a post he held until 1983. From 1989 to 1995, he served as commissioner of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Despite Paterson’s extensive list of accomplishments, Rangel said his friend is best known for being “a real decent fellow,” adding that it’s uncommon for a politician and trade union negotiator to have such a gleaming reputation.
“Basil Paterson exemplified a model of public leadership, serving the people of New York with integrity and dedication to make this state a better place,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. “His legacy inspired a new generation of talented public leadership, a legacy his son Gov. David Paterson carried on as governor.”
In later years, Paterson worked at the law firm of Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein specializing in labor law. He also taught at the State University of New York at New Paltz, Fordham University and Hunter College.
“New York City has lost a progressive giant who committed his life to lifting up others,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement, adding that he sought Paterson’s advice in the 20 years he worked with him.
“Basil was well known throughout the community as a man of action, as someone who set his mind to accomplishment and always met those goals,” the family’s statement said. “He was a selfless leader and he dedicated his life to making sure others’ lives were better.”
“New York has lost a true giant and a trailblazer,” city Comptroller Scott Stringer said. “Basil was a mentor to many in politics and a tireless fighter for civil rights.”
The state comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli, called Paterson “a powerful advocate for justice.”
The family did not release funeral arrangements.
Here are some others responses:
Gov Coumo response:
“Basil Paterson exemplified a model of public leadership, serving the people of New York with integrity and dedication to make this State a better place. New York will miss him. From his service in the U.S. Army during World War II to breaking barriers to become New York’s first African-American Secretary of State, Basil Paterson put his commitment to this State and our nation first. His legacy inspired a new generation of talented public leadership, a legacy his son Governor David Paterson carried on as Governor. Basil’s spirit will forever be felt in the neighborhoods of Harlem, a community he loved, fought tirelessly for, and called home. We mourn his passing, and on behalf of all New Yorkers, I send my thoughts and prayers to Governor David Paterson and Basil’s entire family.”
Congressman Charles Rangel response:
“I am deeply saddened that my best friend and brother, Basil Paterson, has passed away. No one has ever had an unkind thing to say about Basil – he was a man of great integrity, justice and courage to do what is right.
I am honored and grateful to have known and worked with Basil. Basil Paterson, Percy Sutton, David Dinkins, and I were inseparable and indefatigable in our continuous efforts to make Dr. King’s Dream a reality for all. Each step of the way as he championed Dr. King’s legacy as the state senator, deputy mayor of New York City, and then the Secretary of State of New York, Basil helped pave the path in which anybody, regardless of race, could not only vote, but also hold any public office in the nation.
In everything he did in and out of office, Basil was a pioneer who blazed the trail for a generation of leaders in Harlem, in our city and across the state. Basil broke so many barriers, giving voice to our community in his own special and unforgettable way. My deepest sympathies, thoughts and prayers are with his wife Portia, his sons Governor David Paterson and Daniel, and his grandchildren during this difficult time. We have lost a giant among men.”