Political Figures Mourn Passing of ‘Young’ Tommy D’Alesandro

Former Baltimore Mayor Thomas D'Alesandro (D) campaigning with Douglas F. Gansler, then a candidate for attorney general, in Baltimore's Little Italy in 2006. Photo courtesy of Sandra Benson Brantley.

Thomas D’Alesandro III, who served a tumultuous term of Baltimore mayor, from 1967 to 1971, died Sunday of complications from a stroke. He was 90.

D’Alesandro — known as “Young Tommy” throughout his political career to distinguish himself from his father, another former Baltimore mayor — was part of a powerful Little Italy political family. His sister is U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

D’Alesandro’s term was marked by several challenges and controversies, including riots that wracked the city following the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. But D’Alesandro is also credited with promoting racial minorities to top city government positions in record numbers at the time; with early redevelopment of the Inner Harbor and surrounding neighborhoods; and with creating community and recreational programs in inner-city neighborhoods.

D’Alesandro’s death came just 72 hours after the death of U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), another central figure in Baltimore history.

While funeral arrangements hadn’t been finalized Sunday evening, tributes to D’Alesandro flowed in from many corners. Here is a sampling:

Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young (D)

“I am very saddened to learn of the passing of former Mayor Thomas J. D’Alesandro, III. He will always be remembered for his commitment to and love for Baltimore. He guided the city at a tumultuous time and made important strides while in office like creating summer recreation programs for youth, removing racial barriers in employment and education and laying the groundwork for what would become the world-famous Inner Harbor.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)

“Tommy was the finest public servant I have ever known. His life and leadership were a tribute to the Catholic values with which we were raised: faith, family, patriotism. He profoundly believed, as did our parents, that public service was a noble calling and that we all had a responsibility to help others.

“Tommy dedicated his life to our city. A champion of civil rights, he worked tirelessly for all who called Baltimore home. Tommy was a leader of dignity, compassion and extraordinary courage, whose presence radiated hope upon our city during times of struggle and conflict.

“All his life, Tommy worked on the side of the angels. Now, he is with them.”

Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R)

“As the city’s 42nd mayor from 1967 to 1971, he will long be remembered for his leadership in divisive times, and for his efforts to root out discrimination and rebuild the city he loved.”

Former U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D)

“Today we lost another native son of Baltimore. Former Mayor Tommy D’Alesandro III was a kind and caring public servant who stayed humble and proud. He did more in 4 years to provide equal opportunity for the city’s black community than most people did in 40. I will miss him.”

Former Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D)

“He loved his family. He loved our City. His stories were legendary and so was his character.”

U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D)

“Baltimore lost one of its finest today. As Mayor, Tommy worked to bring young, diverse leaders into city government and his passion for his great city never waned.”

Baltimore City Council President Brandon M. Scott (D)

“Mayor D’Alesandro cared deeply about this city, and was an unrelenting advocate for the citizens of Baltimore. ‘Young Tommy,’ as he was affectionately called, understood the need to bridge communities and worked to eliminate racial barriers in city hall.”

Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D)

“Maryland lost another great one this week. Thomas D’Alesandro III was a revered leader and a wise statesman. He was kind enough to share his wisdom and advice with generations who followed him. Condolences to his extraordinary family.”

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