Civil rights advocate laid to rest in Mattituck

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO |  During the eulogy Friday, the Rev. Michael Walrond Jr. said William Lynch Jr.'s legacy will be everlasting — because of all the lives he touched.
CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | During a eulogy Friday, the Rev. Michael Walrond Jr. said William Lynch Jr.’s legacy will be everlasting because of the countless lives he touched.

Widely-known civil rights activist and political consultant William Lynch Jr. died Friday, Aug. 9, from complications of kidney disease. He was 72.

Mr. Lynch was born July 21, 1941, in Mattituck to William Sr. and Lillie Lynch and graduated from Mattituck High School in 1959. As a teenager “Butch” as he was known then, played soccer, basketball and baseball. Of his youth on the North Fork, Mr. Lynch told The Suffolk Times in 2008,“Those were the great years for me. I’ll never forget them.”

Family and friends gathered at New Bethany cemetery in Mattituck on Friday to honor the man they remember as a great Mattituck High School basketball player with a heart of gold.

“He dined with presidents but his heart never left Mattituck,” Sally Goode-Carragher told a reporter before the services. “He always fought for the little guy and never forgot his humble roots.”

(Click on the tab below to read the Aug. 22 Suffolk Times article about Mr. Lynch and his remarkable life in politics.)

Friends said Mr. Lynch maintained ties to his hometown throughout his life.

Family friend LeRoy Heyliger remembered running into Mr. Lynch around the time of Christmas 1965, while the men were serving in the Air Force in different divisions.

“Our planes were in for service, and I heard a voice call my name,” Mr. Heyliger recalled. “It was Bill. He was back from overseas and said that he was discharged.”

It was soon after that Mr. Lynch moved to Harlem to work for a job training and policy institute at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

And so began his venture into politics.

In 1975, Mr. Lynch successfully managed Diane Lacey’s campaign for Democratic district leader in Central Harlem and the Upper West Side. He went on to work on presidential campaigns for Senator Edward M. Kennedy in 1980 and the Rev. Jesse Jackson in 1984 and 1988. He also worked on the campaigns for Congressman Major Owens of Brooklyn in 1982 and state Senator David A. Paterson in 1985. Later, in 2008, he worked as a consultant for Mr. Paterson, who at the time was just taking over as governor for the outgoing Eliot Spitzer.

From 1985-1989, Mr. Lynch served as chief of staff to then-Manhattan Borough President David Dinkins and was instrumental in Mr. Dinkins’s victorious mayoral campaign in 1989. It was during this time he earned the nickname “rumpled genius” for his combination of political skills and wrinkled wardrobe. He served during the Dinkins administration as the deputy mayor for intergovernmental relations, and maintained a longstanding political relationship with Mr. Dinkins.

“He was really a warrior for all races and colors,” Hazel N. Dukes, president of the NAACP New York State Conference, said Friday. “He was instrumental in the success of that campaign.”

Some of the most important moments in his career included working with former South African president and anti-apartheid crusader Nelson Mandela, Mr. Lynch said in the 2008 Suffolk Times interview. After Mr. Mandela was released from prison in 1991, Mr. Lynch helped him campaign for political reform in South Africa. “He was an unbelievable candidate and human being,” Mr. Lynch said.

Mr. Lynch founded his own political consulting firm, Bill Lynch Associates (LLC) in 1999, working on numerous campaigns in the New York area. He also served as a co-chair of John Kerry’s presidential campaign in 2004.  At the time of his death, he was working as a consultant for the mayoral campaign of city Controller, John Liu. His motto “make it happen” stayed with him through his entire life.

He is survived by his wife, Mary Lynch; his children, William Lynch III and Stacy Lynch and a grandson, William Lynch IV.

Funeral services took place in Manhattan on Thursday, Aug. 15 at Riverside Church, where over 1,000 mourners were in attendance, including former President, Bill Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton, former senator and secretary of state; Representative Charles B. Rangel; former secretary of State Basil A. Patterson; the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton, according to the New York Times article.

“I have to say it was a beautiful tribute to a man who was proud of his humble roots on the North Fork, who allowed others to take credit for his genius and stand in the limelight,” said John Vahey of Mattituck, who attended the services in New York as a guest of one of Mr. Lynch’s former colleagues.

“I don’t know how anyone could have attended that moving, beautiful service without being inspired to go out and make the world a better place.”

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