Mourners pay final respects as Gary's first African American mayor laid to rest

GARY, Ind. (WLS) -- The community of Gary gathered to mourn the northwest Indiana city's first African American mayor, who died last week.

The funeral for former Gary Mayor Richard Hatcher was held on Saturday. He died last week at age 86.

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Family, friends and Gary residents said a final goodbye to the trailblazer, who made history as one of the country's first black mayors elected in a big city.

Crowds of people flowed to the Genesis Center for the funeral service.

RELATED: Mourners gather to remember legacy of Gary's first African American mayor Richard Hatcher

"He will be missed," said Gary resident Harold Williams.

Karen Freeman-Wilson, the city's current mayor, said, "In so many ways, he changed so many lives."

Elected in 1967 at the age of 34, Hatcher served five terms in office. He was known for fighting for unity and equality in a post-civil rights era.

Mayor Richard Hatcher won reelection over his Republican opponent by a vote margin of almost 3 to 1. Gary, Indiana, Nov. 2, 1971.

"So our brother is gone, but he's not gone," said Minister Louis Farrakhan. "Humility doesn't die. Good character doesn't die."

Hatcher was eulogized by longtime friend and fellow civil rights activist, Rev. Jesse Jackson.

"I want to thank God for the life of Richard Hatcher," Jackson said. "He made Gary the civil rights capital of the north."

While Hatcher fought to keep the steel town from losing jobs as it saw escalating crime, he was not only remembered for paving the way for other black elected officials, but also as a loving father and husband.

"He left a legacy of love and service for me, my family, my children and for many of you," said Hatcher's daughter, Ragen Hatcher.
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