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Basil Paterson remembered as influential leader

In this Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010 file photo,

In this Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010 file photo, Basil Paterson, father of former New York Gov. David Paterson, prepares to vote in New York. Paterson, who would have turned 88 on April 27, died April 16, 2014, at Mount Sinai Hospital. Newsday's obituary for Basil Paterson

ALBANY -- Basil Paterson was remembered Thursday as one of the forefathers of Harlem politics who gave a voice to generations of African-Americans nationwide and nurtured the rise of his son, David A. Paterson, to become New York's first black governor.

Basil Paterson of Harlem, who had lived on Long Island in the 1970s, died Wednesday night at Mount Sinai Hospital. He was 87. No cause of death was given.

"Basil was well known throughout the community as a man of action, as someone who set his mind to accomplishments and always met those goals," his son 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."

The dapper Basil Paterson was among Harlem's influential Gang of Four, along with Rep. Charles Rangel (D-Harlem), former New York City Mayor David Dinkins and civil rights activist Percy Sutton. They built on the political base started by Adam Clayton Powell Jr., breaking down racial barriers and giving a voice to African-Americans in the Democratic Party.

In 1970, Paterson made history when he ran for lieutenant governor and became the first black candidate on a major party ticket. His slate, with Arthur J. Goldberg for governor, lost to Republican Gov. Nelson Rockefeller and his running mate, Malcolm Wilson.

"Basil Paterson exemplified a model of public leadership, serving the people of New York with integrity and dedication to make the state a better place," said Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. "His legacy inspired a new generation of talented public leadership, a legacy his son, Governor Paterson, carried on."

Dinkins called Paterson "a spellbinder, a storyteller, and old-fashioned verbal acrobat. He was also an able negotiator with an ability to satisfy his adversaries by putting himself 'in the other person's suit,' " Dinkins wrote in his memoir.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) called Paterson "a man of great integrity and deep passion for public service."

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said Paterson "was a powerful advocate for justice, whose example spurred on the many men and women who have followed in his footsteps."

Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) remembered Paterson as a "good and decent man who was committed to public service and giving back to New York."

Paterson was born April 27, 1926, in Harlem to Leonard and Evangeline Rondon Paterson, who had emigrated from the Caribbean. He graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School and received a bachelor of science degree from St. John's University and a law degree from St. John's Law School.

He was elected to the State Senate in the 1960s, representing a district that included Harlem, but gave up the seat to run for lieutenant governor in 1970. He was New York City deputy mayor under the late Ed Koch and was the first African-American to be appointed New York's secretary of state. Among other government and political posts, Paterson was once vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Later, he taught at SUNY New Paltz, Fordham University and Hunter College. Paterson had recently worked with the law firm of Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein in Garden City.

He also is survived by his wife, Portia, and son Daniel Paterson, daughter-in-law Eloise and grandchildren. The family plans a private ceremony within the next few days. A public ceremony will be held next month.

With Dan Janison

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