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Factory Avenue in Mattituck could be dedicated to Bill Lynch

10/03/2016 6:00 AM |


Bill Lynch is remembered for many reasons in his native Mattituck.

Some folks recall him as a childhood friend, others as New York City’s deputy mayor. Many more remember Mr. Lynch as a noted civil rights activist who worked with former South African president Nelson Mandela.

But now Mattituck will remember Mr. Lynch a new way: forever. 

The Mattituck-Laurel Civic Association has formed a committee that’s working with Southold Town to find ways to honor the noted political leader, who died in 2013 at age 72, with a memorial in his hometown.

“With America struggling to bridge a chasm that is widened by racial factors, the legacy of William Lynch Jr. is a rare hope for engaging all of us in getting to know each other,” said LeRoy Heyliger, a member of Southold Town’s Anti-Bias Task Force and one of four committee members who spoke about Mr. Lynch at Monday’s civic association meeting.

One idea is to add a sign dedicating Factory Avenue, where Mr. Lynch attended church as a child, as “William Lynch Jr. Way.” Another idea is to place a plaque somewhere in town.

T0929_lynch2_CAt Monday’s meeting, the committee gauged community interest in the project and took suggestions from residents. Southold Town Councilman Bill Ruland, who also remembered Mr. Lynch from childhood, said the Town Board is looking forward to whatever plan the committee ultimately selects to honor Mr. Lynch.

Committee members shared stories of their experiences growing up locally in the ’50s, saying that despite what was going on elsewhere in the country, blacks and whites on the North Fork bonded through sports, school and church. Even in his youth, friends recalled, Mr. Lynch lived by his motto of “Make it happen.” Despite his success, he never lost touch with his hometown, they said.

Laddie Decker, one of Mr. Lynch’s neighbors and a graduate of Mattituck High School’s Class of 1958, said he remembers a time he went into the city to attend an event with his old friend and Mr. Lynch introduced him to everybody who walked by.

“He never got a big head,” Mr. Decker said.

Growing up, Mr. Lynch was known for his prowess on the baseball diamond and his dedication to his faith. Mr. Heyliger said that Mr. Lynch’s mother, Lillie Mae, was an usher at Unity Baptist Church and was very tough on her son about attending Sunday school.

“She would say you could play all the sports you want, but Sunday you need to go to church,” Mr. Heyliger said, adding that it served to provide Mr. Lynch with a strong “moral compass.”

Another friend, Dottie Jemmott, spoke of how she and Mr. Lynch attended Sunday school together and would work together every Sunday night. She said their Sunday school teachers played a big role in their childhood and she held up a small Bible that was given to her back then.

“I can assure you that Bill Lynch had this with him at all times,” she said of the Bible, which was also given to him.

Ms. Jemmott said Mr. Lynch told her shortly before he died that he was looking to buy a place and return to Mattituck.

Mr. Heyliger said he remembers once asking Mr. Lynch why he got into politics.

“[He said] my faith in God and my love for my country,” Mr. Heyliger recalled.

Mr. Lynch began his lifetime of public service by serving in the United States Air Force. Some of his political achievements include working on the presidential campaigns of Sen. Ted Kennedy and the Rev. Jesse Jackson. He was also a consultant for former New York Gov. David Paterson.

One of his biggest accomplishments was serving for two years as deputy mayor for intergovernmental relations under former New York City Mayor David Dinkins.

Through his consulting firm, Bill Lynch Associates, he helped Nelson Mandela campaign for political reform in South Africa.

Former President Bill Clinton was among the speakers at Mr. Lynch’s funeral in 2013.

Butch Langhorn, a former Riverhead Democratic Party chairman, said he could always call Mr. Lynch for advice when he needed it.

“The advice he gave me made me a better person as a leader in Riverhead,” Mr. Langhorn said. “I have a lot of respect for that man.”

Caption: Laddie Decker looks over memories of his friend.

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