4/17/14: Congressman Charles B. Rangel honors life and legacy of Basil Paterson, dearest friend of more than fifty years and greatest champion of civil rights

“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.”

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.”


4/17/14: Statement from former New York City Mayor David Dinkins

“The Gang of Four is no more. Basil Paterson was not only the smartest among us, he was one of the most decent human beings and sharpest political minds around.”


4/17/14: Statement from the Rev. Al Sharpton

“I have had the honor of knowing Basil Paterson since I was a teenager leading the youth division of Operation Breadbasket. In later years, my respect for him continued to grow due to his awesome intellect and his incomparable knowledge of how to get things done. He was a firm but gentle giant who brought us all to another level. As a contemporary and close friend of his son David, Basil Paterson fathered us all. He brought us to the era of our nation’s first Black President & Attorney General, which was unimaginable when he first started his journey. Basil Paterson ran his race against time and at the end of the day he beat all odds and changed history”


4/17/14: Statement from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio

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


4/17/14: Statement from Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams

“Brooklyn mourns the tragic passing of former Deputy Mayor Basil Paterson. I had the pleasure of knowing this legend of African-American politics, who along with his colleagues in the ‘Gang of Four’ made it possible for a new generation of leaders, including myself, to serve their communities. Basil was a proud Caribbean-American, a respected veteran of the United States Army during World War II and a model public servant. I send my condolences to his family to former Governor David Paterson, the entire Paterson family and all those who cared for Basil.”


4/17/14: Statement from Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on the passing of Basil Paterson

“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.”


4/17/14: Statement from New York State Comproller Thomas DiNapoli

“Basil Paterson devoted his life to his family and his family included all New Yorkers. He was a pioneer, who came from Harlem to blaze a trail for African Americans in politics across the country. He was a powerful advocate for justice, whose example spurred on the many men and women who have followed in his footsteps. Our thoughts and prayers are with Governor David Paterson and the Paterson family as we mourn the loss of a great leader.”


4/17/14: Statement from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver

I am saddened by the passing of Basil Paterson, a man of great integrity and deep passion for public service. Basil will long be remembered for his unwavering dedication to advancing civil rights and improving the lives of working men and women. He was a true statesman, a distinguished public servant and well-respected in his community and throughout New York State. On behalf of the New York State Assembly, I extend our deepest sympathies and prayers to Basil’s wife Portia, his son, former Governor David Paterson and the rest of the family for their loss.


4/17/14: Statement from State Senator Malcolm Smith

“I was deeply saddened today to hear of the death of my colleague and good friend Basil Paterson, a trailblazer for African-Americans in politics and someone who will not be forgotten. I always enjoyed our time together. Basil was a dedicated man of action who devoted his life to improving the lives of others. My thoughts and prayers are with the Paterson family during this difficult time, particularly former Governor David Paterson, who is a close personal friend of mine.”


4/17/14: Statement from Assemblyman Karim Camara

“My heart and prayers are with Basil Paterson’s family, his wife Portia and in particular, with my friend, Governor David Paterson.

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.

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.”


4/17/14: Statement from Assemblyman Keith Wright

“Today I join all of Harlem, the state of New York and the nation, in mourning the passing of one of our proudest and most courageous icons, Basil Paterson. This profound loss is deeply felt by me, personally. I have met many men and women throughout my life, but very few have inspired me as greatly as he did on what it means to be an exceptional leader, public servant and dignitary. His legacy, cemented in greatness by a lifetime of defending those who society had denied a voice, will live eternal in the soul of Harlem and in the hearts of all those who were blessed to have known him.”


4/17/14: Council Member Jumaane D. Williams remembers former secretary of state, NYC Deputy Mayor Basil Paterson

“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. 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.”


4/17/14: Statement from Comptroller Scott M. Stringer on the passing of Basil Paterson

“New York has lost a true giant and a trailblazer with the passing of Basil Paterson. 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.”


4/17/14: Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez

“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. 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.”


4/17/14: Statement from Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins

“It is with deep sadness that I extend my condolences to the family, loved ones and friends of Basil Paterson. Basil was a trailblazer, serving as New York’s first African-American Secretary of State, and his strength and leadership was essential in the fight to make New York into a better and more equal state. He was a bold public figure who inspired a generation to follow in his footsteps, most notably our former Senate Democratic leader, and the 55th governor of New York State, Basil’s son David A. Paterson. Basil will be sorely missed but his legacy will live on and continue to make New York a better state for our children and their children.”


4/17/14: Statement from DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts

“Basil Paterson’s passing is a tremendous loss. 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.

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.”


4/17/14: Statement by Héctor Figueroa, president of 32BJ SEIU

“We mourn the passing of Basil Paterson, who leaves behind him a legacy of unflinching support for working people of all backgrounds. Basil repeatedly broke through the thicket of racial barriers, and in doing so redefined advocacy and political work for generations, supporting a wide array of unions and community groups in the process. He fought steadfastly to ensure that elected officials and powerful interests were responsive to workers’ needs and demands. Always approachable, he listened with his heart as well as his mind. He now joins Bill Lynch as one of the foremost leaders of his generation who has left a more easily accessible pathway towards justice and equality.”


Other statements from his life: