Basil Paterson, the father of former Gov. David A. Paterson and one of the pioneering lions of Harlem politics, died Wednesday night, according to a spokesman for his son. He was 87.
"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," David Paterson 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."
No cause of death was given and funeral arrangements were pending.
Basil Paterson, who lived in Harlem and had most recently worked with the law firm of Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein in Garden City, died at about 10 Wednesday night at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, the spokesman said. He would have turned 88 on April 27.
The dapper, sophisticated Paterson was among Harlem's influential Gang of Four that included 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 another giant, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., as they broke down racial barriers and gave a loud voice to African-Americans in the Democratic Party in New York and nationally.
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, a race that he lost. He was deputy mayor under the late Ed Koch and was the first African-American to be appointed New York's secretary of state. Among several other government and political posts, Paterson was once vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Later, Basil Paterson taught at the State University of New York at New Paltz, Fordham University and Hunter College.
David Paterson often spoke of his father's influence as a political icon and a caring father.
At the his official portrait unveiling in the Capitol earlier this year, the former governor said his father was too ill to attend, but made all the difference in his son's life by insisting the legally blind David Paterson attend mainstream public schools.
Basil Paterson also is survived by his wife, Portia, and son Daniel Paterson, daughter-in-law Eloise and grandchildren.
With Dan Janison