Former Mayor John Lindsay, 60's City Icon, Dead At 79
12/20/2000 10:57 AM
Former Mayor John Lindsay, who led New York through the difficult late 60's and early 70's, died Tuesday night at age 79.
Copyright © 2008 NY1 News
Lindsay suffered from Parkinson's disease and had two heart attacks and two strokes in recent years. He died at a hospital in Hilton Head, South Carolina, where he moved last year to live in a retirement home.
No funeral arrangements were immediately announced.
NY1's Andrew Kirtzman provides this look back at Mayor Lindsay's career:
John Vliet Lindsay was an icon of the sixties. He was a tall and dashing figure who walked the streets of Harlem and contained racial tension. He was a fair-haired, Ivy League-educated Republican whose strongest supporters were poor blacks. More than just a politician, he was an emblem of a proud but decaying city.
"Conditions of most of our central cities are shameful. That shame diminishes the pride of the entire country," Lindsay once said in a speech. "The restoration of that pride must be predicated upon a more energetic and powerful direction of this nation's inventive and productive genius to the massive technological deficiencies of our major cities."
The Upper East Side Congressman was first elected mayor in 1965. He would face devastating strikes and a huge exodus of middle class whites. He raised taxes to pay for an expanding government and arguably laid the groundwork for the city's fiscal collapse several years later.
"You have to be a little bit nuts," said Lindsay. "It's not in the job description, but it helps."
He spoke eloquently of the country's urban and racial problems and served on President Johnson's famous Kerner Commission.
"I don't think Congress has fully digested or fully appreciated the report of the President's Commission on Civil Disorders, and therefore one has to come to the conclusion that maybe the country is not fully aware of the dimensions of the urban problem," said Lindsay.
He also had his share of good news. He profited handsomely from the World Series win by the '69 Mets.
Re-elected in 1969 on the liberal party line, he shed his Republican stripes, enrolled as a Democrat and launched a bid for the Democratic nomination for president. The move was a disaster, as Lindsay failed to win a single primary. The political damage was irreparable and he retired after two terms, weary and politically spent.
Lindsay would never hold office again. He went into private law practice, and as his health deteriorated, his public appearances became increasingly brief.
In retrospect, some blame Lindsay's liberal policies for many of the city's current problems. But most New Yorkers will likely remember him as the idealistic leader who provided hope in a time of anger and fear.
- Andrew Kirtzman