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Herman Badillo, former Bronx BP, dead at 85

Herman Badillo meets media outside the Metro Mall

Herman Badillo meets media outside the Metro Mall on Metropolitan Avenue before a walk tour in K-Mart. Monday September 10, 2001 (Photo by Daniel Avila) Photo Credit: Qns. News Daily / Daniel Avila

Former Bronx borough president and congressman Herman Badillo died Wednesday at the age of 85.

Badillo died from complications of congestive heart disease at New York Presbyterian's Weill-Cornell Medical Center, according to longtime friend George Arzt.

Badillo was the both the first Puerto Rican congressman and borough president.

"He was a role model who overcame an impoverished boyhood, unable to speak English, but he became a major politician," Arzt said. "He lost many elections but gained respect as a real fighter and as the nation's highest-ranking Puerto-Rican officeholder."

Badillo was elected to Congress in 1970, serving four terms. He resigned from Congress to serve as a deputy mayor under Ed Koch from 1978 to 1979.

"Herman Badillo was a trailblazing leader who gave New York's Latino community a new voice, and his success inspired countless others to become active in government," said state Senator Adriano Espaillat (D-Manhattan).

Badillo, who earned a JD from Brooklyn Law School, vied for the mayor's seat several times, the last attempt in 2001 when he tried to run as a Republican before being defeated by Mike Bloomberg in the primary.

In 1969 and 1973, Badillo had two other failed mayoral bids, running as a Democrat.

Badillo published his first book in 2006, titled "One Nation, One Standard: An Ex-Liberal on How Hispanics Can Succeed Just Like Other Immigrant Groups."

Current Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr, called Badillo an inspiration and said he touched the lives of millions of Bronx residents with his work.

"Herman Badillo worked assiduously throughout his career to make a difference in the lives of countless individuals across our borough and city," he said in a statement.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo also praised Badillo's legacy.

"From his tenure as Bronx borough president to his work leading the CUNY Board of Trustees, Herman was a shining example of how a dedication to civil service can make a difference in the world around us," he said in a statement.

A private funeral ceremony will be held for Badillo on Sunday at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Home in Manhattan.

Rudy Giuliani and Ray Kelly are scheduled to speak, Arzt said.

He is survived by his wife Gail and his son David, from a previous marriage.


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