More Tributes For Basil Paterson, Pioneering Harlem Politico Who Died At 87


Basil Paterson shown with the late Bill Lynch, who was a long-time friend


Following the death at age 87 yesterday of Basil Paterson, a former New York Secretary of State and political kingmaker, messages of condolences and tributes continue to arrive at this newspaper as it has all day.

Paterson also was a former State Senator and a Vice Chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Congressman Charles B. Rangel, calling Paterson “his dearest friend of more than fifty years” said: “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.”

Rangel added: “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.”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said: “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.”

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

“My heart and prayers are with Basil Paterson’s family, his wife Portia and in particular, with my friend, Governor David Paterson,” said Assemblyman and Chair of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Caucus Karim Camara. “Basil Paterson served our state with incredible distinction as a State Senator, Deputy Mayor and New York’s Secretary of State. His hard work and commitment to the people of New York will never be forgotten. He helped make New York a better, more fair and just place for all.”

He added, “As the current Chair of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Caucus, I serve each day with the knowledge that I am standing on the shoulders of giants like Basil Paterson and his friend Percy Sutton who left this earth before him. The mantle they have passed on to this generation of leaders is that we must speak boldly for those who do not have a voice in government. He will be dearly missed but his legacy will remain for perpetuity.”

“I was saddened to learn of the passing of Basil Paterson,” DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz  said in a statement. “His pioneering career was defined by an unwavering pursuit of the ideals for which he fought and the betterment of the community which he loved. Mr. Paterson consistently answered the call to service, displaying savvy and poise in whichever capacity he could best represent the people of New York. Alongside his colleagues in Harlem, he opened doors not just in his home state, but across the nation, for future generations of African American leaders. As a former Vice Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Mr. Paterson’s commitment to inclusion and the expansion of opportunity for all is an indelible legacy on the fabric of our party. My thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Paterson’s family and friends at this difficult time.”

“New York has lost a true giant and a trailblazer with the passing of Basil Paterson,” said Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. “Over decades in public service, Basil was a mentor to many in politics and a tireless fighter for civil rights. He will always be remembered by thousands of New Yorkers as the man who should have been mayor.  My thoughts and prayers go out to Governor Paterson and the entire Paterson family.”

“Basil Paterson’s passing is a tremendous loss,” said Lillian Roberts, District Council 37 Executive Director. “I join all New Yorkers in mourning the passing of a trailblazer, former Deputy Mayor, Secretary of State, labor lawyer and political advisor but I also cherish the warm personal memories of the man I have known since the early 1970s as an honest, knowledgeable and trusted friend who could always be relied on to generously lend an ear or share his wisdom and insight.”

Roberts also said, “My heart goes out to both his immediate family and to his extended family of labor leaders and activists who will greatly miss a trusted friend and brother in our ongoing struggle to improve the lives of working men and women everywhere.”

“I am saddened to learn of the transition of Basil Paterson, who paved a way for people of more color in careers of public service across this state,” said Council Member Jumaane D. Williams. “Basil, himself a public servant of Grenadian descent, spent decades serving the people of this city and state, including as the first black to serve as Secretary of State for the State of New York, as Deputy Mayor for the City of New York, and as longtime labor attorney who represented the interests of those who are long ignored in this economy. He was one of the original ‘Gang of Four’- pioneering black Harlem politicians who opened to door for so many more than four decades ago. Although I only had the pleasure of speaking to him just a few times, he always spoke words of encouragement as if he had known me for years. I extend my prayers for peace and comfort to former Governor David Paterson and the entire Paterson family at this difficult time.”

“Today we awoke to the sad news of the passing of Basil Paterson and we are at a great loss not only as a City but as a Country,” Council Member Basil Paterson said. “Basil Paterson was a pioneer, a true example of what it means to be a public servant and above all, a magnificent human being who cared for our community, our city, and our country.  Throughout his monumental career he set the path for so many of us, who even from a distance could not help but be touched and inspired by his bravery and his pursuit of social justice. Today we mourn the death of a great man who will be sorely missed but whose legacy will be everlasting. I send my deepest condolences to Governor David Paterson, his entire family and to all New Yorkers who today have lost a hero.”

Bill Lynch Associates, the company of the late Bill Lynch, a long-time friend of Paterson’s, who himself passed away last year, in a statement said: “It is with great sadness that the team at Bill Lynch Associates, LLC (BLA) learned of the passing of Basil Paterson. We have lost a giant in labor and politics, a trailblazer who served as a mentor to us and many others. Paterson was a pillar of Harlem’s ‘Gang of Four’ that helped empower our disenfranchised community. His groundbreaking work as a public servant­ – be it as deputy mayor under Ed Koch, secretary of state under Governor Hugh Carey, or state senator – has left a lasting impact for good on New York.”

The American Federation of Teachers’ President Randi Weingarten in a statement said: “Basil Paterson was a fighter for justice—he championed civil rights, voting rights and labor rights. He was our long-time counsel, in the truest sense of the word, for the United Federation of Teachers and the American Federation Teachers. He worked tirelessly to make sure working families and their children got the respect and dignity they deserve. We are proud and grateful for his efforts on behalf of our members. For me, personally, Basil was my counselor, my friend and my mentor. A lion of the movement for justice and equity, he will be sorely missed. We take solace in knowing that his legacy will endure by those continuing the struggle in Harlem, across New York and across the country.”


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