Mario Cuomo, the 52nd governor of New York state and father of current governor Andrew Cuomo, died on Thursday at the age of 82.
Cuomo was an icon of New York politics and a liberal standard-bearer for the Democratic party, serving as governor for three terms from 1983 to 1994. He died on the same day his son was sworn in for a second term as governor.
The office of Mario Cuomo released a statement saying "the Governor passed away from natural causes due to heart failure this evening at home with his loving family at his side."
Andrew Cuomo referenced his father's ailing health at Thursday's swearing in ceremony, saying in part, "He couldn't be here physically today, my father. But my father is in this room":
"We're missing one family member. My father is not with us today. We had hoped that he was going to be able to come; he is at home and he is not well enough to come. We spent last night with him, changed the tradition a little bit. We weren't in Albany last night; we stayed at my father's house to ring in the New Year with him. I went through the speech with him. He said it was good, especially for a second-termer. See, my father is a third-termer. But he sends his regards to all of you. He couldn't be here physically today, my father. But my father is in this room. He is in the heart and mind of every person who is here. He is here and he is here, and his inspiration and his legacy and his experience is what has brought this state to this point. So let's give him a round of applause."
Cuomo was known as a skilled orator, his most famous speech being the keynote address he gave at the 1984 Democratic National Convention, in which he vigorously attacked President Ronald Reagan and spoke of class inequality in the United States.
Before serving as governor, Cuomo was the Secretary of State of New York from 1975 to 1978 and the Lieutenant Governor of New York from 1979 to 1982. Cuomo was twice considered a Democratic presidential front-runner, but declined to run in 1988 and 1992.
Cuomo was the son of Italian immigrants, born in 1932 in the New York City borough of Queens. He was an avid baseball player and in 1952, on a summer break from college, briefly played for the Pittsburgh Pirates farm team. After getting struck in the head with a pitch and being hospitalized for several days, Cuomo abandoned baseball and returned to school, going on to study law.
He would become a well known community organizer throughout New York City before being appointed New York Secretary of State in 1975.
Cuomo's political career was defined by his eloquent defense of liberal causes, most notably his opposition to the death penalty as governor. Although he was a devout Roman Catholic who said he personally opposed abortion, Cuomo's political position was to support abortion rights.
President Bill Clinton came close to nominating Cuomo for the Supreme Court in 1993, but Cuomo preemptively declined the nomination.
After being defeated in his 1994 election seeking a fourth term as governor, Cuomo retired from politics.
Condolences and praise for Cuomo immediately began pouring out on Thursday night.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said "our country and our region lost a giant today":
"Our country and our region lost a giant today with the passing of Governor Mario Cuomo. He was a strong, eloquent leader who loved New York and its people. As an Italian-American, he was also a role model for future generations that anything was possible through hard work and education. Finally, he was a great husband, father and grandfather. Mary Pat and I send our deepest condolences to Matilda, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the entire Cuomo family."
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called Cuomo "a man of unwavering principle":
The Rev. Al Sharpton called Cuomo "the last liberal giant of New York politics":
The passing of Governor Mario Cuomo is a true loss to the nation, the state and lovers of civil rights and liberties. He was the last liberal giant of New York politics and was a true statesman/politician. We debated often but he never would reduce our disagreements to petty personal grudges. He was a philosopher at heart that always saw the bigger picture. Even when we would engage in debate I felt he was playing chess while I was playing checkers. His legacy is a better New York and a better nation. It seems ironic he died on his son's inauguration address day, he would have wanted to pass the torch on a day that we were all paying attention. Rest well Governor. Mario, you have earned it and your place in history is secure. You can now sleep with the greats.
George Pataki, who defeated Cuomo in 1994 to become the 53rd Governor of New York, praised Cuomo's "soaring intellect":
Former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg said Cuomo "earned a spot alongside Theodore Roosevelt, Charles Evans Hughes, Al Smith, and Franklin Roosevelt in the pantheon of New York's great progressive governors":
Today I was saddened to hear that we lost one of America's most eloquent voices for liberalism and one of of the most important figures in modern New York politics. Mario Cuomo inspired millions of people around the country with his vision for a more compassionate and just society, and during difficult times for our city and state, he brought principled and ethical leadership to Albany. He never swayed with the political winds - whether on the death penalty or any other issue - and he earned a spot alongside Theodore Roosevelt, Charles Evans Hughes, Al Smith, and Franklin Roosevelt in the pantheon of New York's great progressive governors. But for all he accomplished, his proudest day in life well may have been his last, seeing his son, Andrew, inaugurated for a second term. I was lucky to call him a friend and will always appreciate the wise advice that he offered me over the years. My heart goes out to his wife, Matilda, and the entire Cuomo family, during this difficult time.
And President Obama said "Mario paired his faith in God and faith in America to live a life of public service — and we are all better for it":
Michelle and I were saddened to learn of the passing of former New York Governor Mario Cuomo. An Italian Catholic kid from Queens, born to immigrant parents, Mario paired his faith in God and faith in America to live a life of public service - and we are all better for it. He rose to be chief executive of the state he loved, a determined champion of progressive values, and an unflinching voice for tolerance, inclusiveness, fairness, dignity, and opportunity. His own story taught him that as Americans, we are bound together as one people, and our country's success rests on the success of all of us, not just a fortunate few. Michelle and I extend our deepest condolences to Mario's wife Matilda, his children, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Maria, Margaret, Madeline, and Chris, and his family, friends, and New Yorkers who loved him dearly.
Here are the wake and funeral details from the Cuomo family:
"On Monday, January 5th, calling hours will be held between 1:00PM-5:00PM and 7:00PM-10:00PM at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Home, located at 1076 Madison Avenue in Manhattan.
On Tuesday, January 6th at 11:00 AM, funeral services will be held at St. Ignatius Loyola Church, located at 980 Park Avenue in Manhattan. The funeral is not private – it is open to family and friends."
Gavon Laessig is a deputy news director and front page editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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