By Jake Pearson & Jennifer Peltz
William Lynch, a deputy to then-Mayor David Dinkins who for 40 years played an active role in city, state and national politics and was influential in Nelson Mandela's historic visit, died Friday at age 72.
Lynch died at a hospital from complications from kidney disease, his son, William Lynch Jr., and daughter, Stacy Lynch, said in a statement.
Dinkins, who was mayor in the early 1990s, said Lynch "will be fondly remembered by many."
"I hope that the city, the country really, remembers that it was because of Bill Lynch that I ran for mayor in the first place and would not have succeeded had it not been for him," Dinkins said.
Lynch, the son of a Long Island potato farmer, served in the U.S. Air Force before entering politics. He started his political career in Harlem, managing various Democratic candidates running for district leader and statewide office, including the successful 1985 state Senate race of David Paterson, who later served as governor. He eventually became chief of staff to Dinkins while he was Manhattan's borough president in the 1980s.
Then, in 1989, Lynch acted as Dinkins' campaign manager in his successful bid to become the city's first black mayor, running against Republican Rudy Giuliani. He later served as a deputy mayor for intergovernmental affairs during Dinkins' administration.
In 1990, Lynch helped engineer Mandela's visit to New York, coordinating speaking events in Harlem and at Yankee Stadium and a tickertape parade.
Dinkins said Lynch "helped make history" by setting up that visit.
"He had a unique capacity to pull together bright young women and men who are dedicated to doing good things," Dinkins said.
After leaving city government, Lynch served as director of legislation and political action for the municipal workers' union, District Council 1701 of AFSCME. He advised the presidential campaigns of Jesse Jackson and Walter Mondale.
“Bill Lynch was a giant in New York City politics, and – on a personal level – a mentor and a friend to me for the last 25 years," New York City Public Advocate and 2013 mayoral candidate Bill De Blasio said in a statement. De Blasio worked with Lynch as a junior staffer during the Dinkins administration.
"Sometimes we were on the same side, sometimes we were on opposite sides, but he was always on the side of economic and social justice for New Yorkers," De Blasio said. "He inspired two generations of activists and public servants to make a difference in this city."
Later in life, he became a political consultant, advising numerous candidates running for citywide and national offices. From 1997 to 2003 he served as a vice chair to the Democratic National Committee, and in 2004 he was a deputy campaign manager for then-U.S. Sen. John Kerry, of Massachusetts.
Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Lynch always put people first.
"Bill Lynch had a heart even bigger than the city he served," the Clintons said in a statement. "Whether he was fighting for working families at AFSCME or running political campaigns or working in City Hall, Bill always put people first.
"He was a friend to both of us over many years. We admired his integrity and his generosity, including his support for scores of community and philanthropic organizations. .... New York has lost a champion and they have lost a loving husband and a devoted father."
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Lynch was sought by "many of the most influential political leaders, here in the city and also on the national level."
Lynch was known to have a deep commitment to social justice and philanthropy, serving on the boards of various organizations, such as the Children's Defense Fund. Dinkins said Lynch used to say to him, "Good government is good politics."
"He was a good guy," Dinkins said. "He'll be sorely missed."
Lynch also is survived by his wife and a grandson. Funeral arraignments are pending.