Basil Paterson Dead at 87

Basil Paterson at his son's swearing-in ceremony in 2008. (Photo: Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

Basil Paterson at his son’s swearing-in ceremony in 2008. (Photo: Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

Basil Paterson, the longtime Harlem political leader and the father of former Gov. David Paterson, has died, his family announced early Thursday morning. He was 87.

The former state senator, deputy mayor and New York’s first black Secretary of State–perhaps best known as one of the “gang of four” along with former Mayor David Dinkins, former Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton and Congressman Charlie Rangel–was pronounced dead at Mt. Sinai Hospital at around 10 p.m. last night–11 days shy of his 88th birthday, according to a spokesman.

“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,” his family said in a statement. “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.”

“While he dedicated his life to public service, his great love was his family. We will remember him most of all as a man of conviction, a man of courage and a man of integrity,” they added. “He will be greatly missed.”

Mr. Paterson, who was born and raised in Harlem, also served as a commissioner of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and in later years worked as a labor lawyer, representing groups like Local 1199SEIU and the city’s teachers’ union.

“Basil is one of the singularly most talented, sophisticated, subtle people I know, and is very wise to the world generally and to the political world in particular,” Harold Ickes a Democratic consultant who has known the Patersons for decades, told the New York Times in 2010.

View the full statement from the family below:

HARLEM – Basil A. Paterson, a renowned New York political figure and long-time Democratic Party stalwart, passed away this evening.  Mr. Paterson was born in Harlem on April 27, 1926 and led a long, successful life distinguished by a myriad of professional accomplishments and highlighted by the love of his family.

Former New York Governor David A. Paterson and his family tonight released the following statement on the passing of Basil A. Paterson:

“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.

While he dedicated his life to public service, his great love was his family.  We will remember him most of all as a man of conviction, a man of courage and a man of integrity.  He will be greatly missed.”

Mr. Paterson is survived by his wife, Portia, his sons David and Daniel, his daughter-in-law Eloise, and his grandchildren, Kyah, Carter, Basil, Alex and Ashley.

Mr. Paterson passed away at approximately 10 PM at Mt. Sinai Hospital, 11 days before his 88th birthday.

“Learn to labor and to wait”- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow