Harlem Political Leader Basil Paterson Dead at 87

By Jeff Mays on April 17, 2014 3:45pm 

 Basil Paterson, second from left, a Harlem political leader and the father of New York's first African-American governor David Paterson, died Wednesday evening. From left are former Mayor David Dinkins, Paterson, the late Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton and Rep. Charles Rangel who made up the "Gang of Four."
Basil Paterson, second from left, a Harlem political leader and the father of New York's first African-American governor David Paterson, died Wednesday evening. From left are former Mayor David Dinkins, Paterson, the late Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton and Rep. Charles Rangel who made up the "Gang of Four."
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Office of U.S. Rep Charles Rangel

HARLEM — Basil Paterson, a Harlem political leader and the father of New York's first African-American governor, David Paterson, died Wednesday evening.

Paterson's family did not release a cause of death for the 87-year-old, saying he died at approximately 10 p.m. at Mt. Sinai Hospital.

“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.  He was a selfless leader and he dedicated his life to making sure others lives were better. Throughout his life, he was known as a pillar of strength by so many throughout New York.  For that, we know he was grateful," read a family statement.

With Rep. Charles Rangel, former Mayor David Dinkins and the late Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton, Paterson formed the "Gang of Four," a potent force in city politics with black Harlem as its base.

Paterson also served as a deputy mayor, state senator and the first black secretary of state for New York during his long career in politics.

"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," Rangel said in a statement.

"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," Rangel added.

Tributes began pouring in across the city and state. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Paterson "exemplified a model of public leadership" while City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said Paterson was a "trailblazer who broke barriers and made history throughout his storied career."

"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," Cuomo added in the statement.

“Today, New York City has lost a progressive giant who committed his life to lifting up others," Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. "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,"

Mr. Paterson is survived by his wife, Portia, sons David and Daniel,  daughter-in-law Eloise, and five grandchildren.

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