Mario Cuomo, a seminal politician who served three terms as New York’s governor, has died. He was 82.
The statesman, whose death was confirmed by the New York state governor’s office, died at his home Thursday from natural causes due to heart failure.
The son of Italian immigrants was best known as a liberal giant and a master orator. He died on the same day that his son Andrew was beginning his second term as governor, reports USA Today.
“He couldn’t be here physically today, my father,” Andrew Cuomo said Thursday during his inaugural address. “But my father is in this room. He is in the heart and mind of every person who is here. He is here … and his inspiration and his legacy and his experience is what has brought this state to this point.”
Though he worked in his father’s grocery store as a youth, the elder Cuomo became politically active after receiving his law degree in 1956. He served as New York governor from 1983 to 1994 and “was credited with simultaneously improving the business environment of New York and the quality of life for its citizens, despite a national recession at the time,” his son Andrew said in a statement.
Cuomo’s decision in 1991 to decline a run for the presidency paved the way for Bill Clinton to win the Democratic Party’s nomination and the White House a year later. (Read TIME‘s 1986 cover on Cuomo here.)
The elder Cuomo retired from politics after he was defeated by George Pataki in a bid for a fourth term as governor.
When once asked what he wanted in his obituary, he replied: “People ask me what I want as an epitaph,” he said, before giving the answer: ” ‘He tried.’ ”
He is survived by his five children and fourteen grandchildren.
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