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Tue, 04.27.1926

Basil Paterson, one of New York’s finest

Basil A. Paterson

*Basil Alexander Paterson was born on this date in 1926. He was a Black labor lawyer and former politician.

Paterson was born in Harlem, New York, the son of Leonard James and Evangeline Alicia (Rondon) Paterson. His father was born on the island of Carriacou in the Grenadines and arrived in the United States aboard the S.S. Vestris in 1917 in New York City.   His mother was born in Kingston, Jamaica and arrived in the United States in 1919 aboard the S.S. Vestnorge in Philadelphia with a final destination of New York City.  A stenographer by profession, the former Miss Rondon once served as a secretary for Marcus Garvey.

In 1942, at the age of 16, Paterson graduated from De Witt Clinton High School in the Bronx. He then began working with a wholesale house in the old Port Authority building on 18th Street. His studies continued though at St. John's University where they were interrupted by serving two years in the army during World War II. He graduated in 1948 with a B.S. in biology. This was followed by admission to St. John's Law School, where he received the degree of Jurist Doctor in 1951. During this time he was married to his wife Portia and began raising a family.

Paterson became involved in Democratic politics in Harlem in the 1950s and 1960s. Along with former New York Mayor David Dinkins, former Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton, and Congressman Charles Rangel, Paterson is a leader of the "Harlem Clubhouse," which dominated Harlem politics since the 1960s. In 1965 Paterson was elected to the New York State Senate representing the Upper West Side of New York City and Harlem. He gave up his Senate seat in 1970 to run for lieutenant governor, as the running mate of former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg. The Goldberg/Paterson ticket lost to the Republican ticket of incumbent Gov. Nelson Rockefeller and Lt. Gov. Malcolm Wilson.

In 1978, Paterson was appointed as a Deputy Mayor of New York City by then Mayor Ed Koch. He stepped down as deputy mayor in 1979 to become New York Secretary of State, and served until the end of the Hugh Carey administration in 1983. He was the first Black New York Secretary of State. In 1989, Paterson became a commissioner of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, a position he held until 1995.

In 2003, he was appointed to the Commission to Promote Public Confidence in Judicial Elections. That same year, Paterson was elected Chairman of the KeySpan Foundation Board of Directors. He has served as Co-Chairman of the New York State Governor's Commission on Determinate Sentencing, and the New York State Commission on Powers of Local Government.

Paterson received numerous awards including the Humanitarian Award from Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, and St. John's University Medal of Excellence. Currently, Paterson is a Member of the law firm of Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein, P.C., where he was co-chair of the firm's Labor practice.

He was the father of New York Governor David Paterson.  Basil Patterson died on April 16, 2014, in Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan.

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