Friends and former colleagues offered an outpouring of condolences this morning for Basil Paterson, the trailblazing Harlem leader and the father of Gov. David Paterson, who died last night at the age of 87.
Leading the outpouring were members of the famous “Gang of Four,” an influential group of African-American power brokers that included Mr. Paterson, former Mayor David Dinkins, former Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton and Congressman Charlie Rangel.
“The Gang of 4 is no more,” declared former Mayor David Dinkins in a sober statement this morning.
Mr. Dinkins hailed the former state senator and deputy mayor’s legacy, as well as his friendship and decency.
“Basil Paterson was not only the smartest among us, he was one of the most decent human beings and sharpest political minds around,” he said. “As Deputy Mayor, Secretary of State, or labor lawyer, he counseled generations—from Presidents to shop stewards in his dignified and brilliantly incisive manner. He was also one the greatest friends anyone could hope for. My heart goes out to Portia, David, Daniel and his grandchildren.”
Mr. Rangel called Mr. Paterson his “best friend and brother,” and described him as “the greatest champion of civil rights.”
“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,” said Mr. Rangel in a statement. “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,” he added. “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.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo also offered his words of condolence, describing Mr. Paterson as someone who “exemplified a model of public leadership,” broke barriers as New York’s first African-American secretary of state and “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,” said the governor. “Basil’s spirit will forever be felt in the neighborhoods of Harlem, a community he loved, fought tirelessly for, and called home.”