Memphis' First African-American Mayor Dies at 76

Bishop J.O. Patterson Jr. of Tennessee was known as a churchman and statesman.

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Bishop J.O. Patterson (the Washington Informer)

J. O. Patterson Jr., the politician and clergyman who was the first African American to assume the office of mayor in Memphis, Tenn., succumbed to kidney failure on Saturday. He was 76.

He was appointed interim mayor of Memphis 1982 after Wyeth Chandler stepped down to become a circuit court judge, and also served as the bishop of the Church of God in Christ and a pastor at Pentecostal Temple.

Mr. Patterson was born on May 28, 1935 in Memphis to the late Presiding Bishop of the Church of God in Christ, Inc., J.O. Patterson Sr. and Deborah M. Patterson and was the grandson of the COGIC founder, Bishop Charles Harrison Mason.

Known as a churchman and a statesman Bishop Patterson, served as the chairman of the legislative body of the church, the General Assembly for nearly eleven years. As Chairman of the General Assembly, he supervised all sessions of the legislative and judicial authority of the Church of God in Christ, Inc.

“Bishop J.O. Patterson was a wise and faithful chairman who served in one of the highest offices of the Church of God in Christ. The General Assembly of the church is the doctrine expressing body of the church and Bishop Patterson led that entity effectively and with vision. He will be greatly missed,” said Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake.

Patterson, who was known for his wit and sense of humor, will also be remembered as a voice of reason and a force for compromise for his service during one of the city's most volatile times -- the sanitation-worker strike in 1968. He leaves behind a wife and four children.

Read more at the Washington Informer and the Tri State Defender.

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