David Gates, president of the Hempstead board of education and a senior pastor at Miracle Christian Center in Hempstead, died Wednesday, officials from the Hempstead Union Free School District said Thursday. Public records show he was 56.
"This is an unimaginable tragedy and devastating loss to our entire community," Superintendent Regina Armstrong and the board of education said in a joint statement Thursday. "We join family, friends, colleagues, students, and staff in grieving this tragic loss."
A district spokeswoman said she did not know the cause of death or whether it was related to the new coronavirus.
Gates was also an executive assistant to Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin. He previously served as Hempstead Village Mayor Don Ryan's chief of staff.
Clavin in a statement said Gates was "a clarion voice of faith, hope, justice and opportunity." Ryan echoed that praise, calling Gates "a fearless leader" whose "presence in this village will be next to impossible to replace."
Miracle Christian Center did not return a request for comment. Gates' family could not be reached for comment.
Hempstead Village Deputy Mayor Charles Renfroe said Gates grew up in Hempstead, graduated from Hempstead High School and lived in the village at the time of his death.
Gates received a bachelor's degree from Empire State College and a doctorate in sacred theology from United Christian College in Manhattan, Newsday has reported. He was president of the Hempstead branch of the NAACP and chief of staff of the Long Island Conference of Clergy. He began serving on the school board in 2016.