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Thomas D'Alesandro, 84; Former Mayor of Baltimore, State Democratic Official

August 29, 1987|From Times Wire Services

BALTIMORE — Thomas D'Alesandro Jr., the veteran mayor of Baltimore who was called "Tommy" by Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman and John F. Kennedy, has died.

The elder statesman of Maryland's Democratic Party was 84 and died of cardiac arrest Sunday in Mercy Hospital's coronary intensive-care unit.

As mayor from 1947 to 1959, D'Alesandro presided over a period of vast physical improvements in Baltimore. An airport was opened outside the city during his tenure, and major league baseball returned to Baltimore.

In 1958, he won voter approval for the financing of the Charles Center urban renewal project, launching the rejuvenation that remade much of the heart of his beloved city.

His home was the Little Italy section of Baltimore; he lived just a block from his birthplace.

'Where I Belong'

Asked why he had remained in the modest row-house community of his childhood, he once replied:

"I'm a paisano. These are my people, and this is where I belong."

D'Alesandro is survived by a family of politicians. His son, Thomas D'Alesandro III, served as City Council president, as well as mayor of Baltimore. His daughter, Nancy Pelosi, recently won a special election in San Francisco to fill a vacant congressional seat.

D'Alesandro quit school at 13 to help his family. He went into the insurance business and had his own agency by 1941.

He got his start in politics as an Election Day precinct runner. At 22, with the support of the last of the old citywide Democratic bosses, he won a seat in the state House of Delegates and later aligned himself with Roosevelt's New Deal policies.

He was elected mayor in 1947 and, although seriously ill in 1954, easily fought off attempts by two coalitions to wrest the office from him.

He gave up an opportunity to become mayor again in 1963 by helping his son get elected council president. Four years later, the younger D'Alesandro became mayor and held the post through 1971.

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