Remembering Herman Badillo

Herman Badillo was considered “the most influential Puerto Rican politician” of the 1950s and 1960s. (Photo via El Diario)

Herman Badillo was considered “the most influential Puerto Rican politician” of the 1950s and 1960s. (Photo via El Diario)

Funeral services for Puerto Rican former Rep. Herman Badillo will be held in private this Sunday at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Home on Madison Avenue in Manhattan, according to sources close to the politician’s family. The funeral home is known for hosting the wakes of well-known personalities, including Celia Cruz, Greta Garbo and Joan Rivers.

It is expected that former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly will be among those delivering eulogies. The time and place of the burial have not been divulged.

The news of the death of the 85-year-old politician has produced a wave of messages of admiration, sadness and gratitude highlighting his legacy of struggle during the most turbulent decades for the Puerto Rican community and the city’s political leadership.

“I am deeply saddened by the death of a man whom I admired and whom I considered a role model,” said Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr. in a press release. Badillo was considered “the most influential Puerto Rican politician” of the 1950s and ’60s.

“He was always there to listen to my questions and offer his advice. He was a voice that guided the beginnings of my career,” added Díaz Jr. about the first Latino to occupy the borough’s presidency.

Mayor Bill de Blasio was also said to be deeply saddened by Badillo’s passing, and pointed out the former congressman’s political trajectory.

“He came to New York City an orphan and left it a legend,” said de Blasio. “His life and work will inspire New Yorkers for generations to come.”

Badillo arrived in the city when he was 11 years old to stay with an aunt after both his parents died of tuberculosis.

“He rose as a leader in the 1950s and ’60s, a period during which he defended a community that was openly described as ‘a problem’ for this city,” said City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “He successfully fought to eliminate literacy tests and English-only ballots intended to deny Puerto Ricans and other communities their right to vote.”

Mark-Viverito added that “Herman created controversy in his later years, but his place in history as a leader who dared to knock down doors is undeniable.”

New York Reps. José Serrano and Nydia Velázquez lauded Badillo’s work.

“The Bronx, the Puerto Rican community and the Hispanic community will never forget him,” said Serrano.

He also received praise from New Mexico Rep. Michelle Luján Grisham and California Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard.  Roybal-Allard remembered how Badillo, alongside her late father Edward Roybal, founded the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) in 1976, which has channeled and amplified the voice of Latinos for nearly 40 years.

The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), also co-founded by Badillo, said that he “was a public servant who, for over 40 years, spearheaded the efforts to promote civil rights, urban renovation, programs against poverty, and the rights to vote, employment and education.”

The CHC, which gathers the House of Representatives’ Hispanic Democrats, joined the grief for the Puerto Rican politician’s death.

Rubén Hinojosa, CHC president, said yesterday that Badillo was “a champion of civil rights,” and highlighted his work in defense of the interests of the Latino community.

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

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