Civil rights activist and business owner Russell Graddy has died.
Graddy was 90.
“Paterson has lost a legend. Russell Graddy was a champion for civil rights and a successful businessman,” said mayor Andre Sayegh in a social media post.
Graddy owned Mr. G’s restaurant on 10th Avenue, which over the years has become a meeting place for influential politicians and local leaders.
“All our streets are mourning. I never called him anything but Russell because my respect for Russell Graddy was overwhelming. But you could get no better pulse for Paterson than over a cup of coffee at his restaurant,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell.
A section of 10th Avenue where his business is located was renamed in his honor in 2019. At the time officials said they wanted to recognize Graddy and give him his flowers while he was still alive.
Graddy was born in Wrightsville, Georgia. He moved to Paterson at 15. He served in the U.S. Army in Korea and worked for the Wright Aeronautical in Wood-Ridge. He has opened a number of successful businesses.
In 1963, Graddy stayed in the same motel as Martin Luther King, Jr., when the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom took place. The march was where King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
In 1968, Graddy invited King to visit Paterson.
Graddy helped many black families move to Paterson to escape poverty and racism in the Deep South, officials said during a street sign unveiling in 2019.
“For his whole life, Russell was a trailblazer and looked out for community first and always. Russell’s positive energy to make Paterson better was bottomless. We all loved him. We will all miss him,” said Pascrell.