NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – 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.
“He was a combination of Clarence Darrow, Thurgood Marshall and Johnnie Cochran rolled into one. He was absolutely brilliant,” former mayor David Dinkins told WCBS 880 Thursday afternoon.
“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 for his son Gov. David Paterson carried on as governor.”
“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.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio also released a statement on Paterson’s passing Thursday.
“Today, New York City has lost a progressive giant who committed his life to lifting up others. Like so many in this city, I often sought Basil’s advice and gained from his wisdom throughout the more than 20 years I had the honor of working with him. He helped to shape the thinking of so many of today’s leaders in our city and state,” the mayor stated. “And while Basil is known to the public as a trailblazer, he was also a family man who cared deeply for his wife and children, and my thoughts are with my good friend David today. While Basil will certainly be missed, his legacy of progress and achievement will continue to resonate in New York for generations to come.”
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.
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.
The family did not release funeral arrangements.
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