open letter newport ri

While many of us enjoyed a personal friendship with the Hon. Paul L. Gaines, Sr., the whole City of Newport and the rest of the state lost a true friend and champion when he died. He was both singular and modest in his remarkable accomplishments, a life-time of milestones that will always be his legacy.

He was a person of profound love for his family and his community. His professional career was marked with dedication to helping others through his roles as teacher, coach, university administrator, School Committee Member, and Mayor of the City of Newport. He was a member of on many commissions, committees, and boards that served the public interest.

Paul became the first African-American mayor in New England and in Rhode Island, something in which he took some pride.  But, he wanted to see others follow in his footsteps. He was a role model and was always ready with a ladder to hand to the next aspirant.

Paul has been the recipient of numerous awards over the years, including the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Living the Dream” Award. He certainly tried to emulate his life after the teaching and principles of Dr. King.

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So, it can be said that Paul was a person of indomitable integrity and a keen sense of equality and justice – someone who was entirely committed to a fair and even playing field for all. He was not bombastic in his ways, but he was a very determined and effective leader. He was also popular, loved, patient, and with a good sense of humor.

It was a privilege for me to serve as his campaign manager in his runs for City Council, but it was an even greater honor for us and our families to be friends for all these years.

We agreed on just about everything except baseball- he was for the Yankees; I am a Red Sox fan.

We will miss Paul Gaines, but he would ask us not so much to mourn him, but to remember to be kind and helpful to others. I will always hold him in the highest of esteem.

One request that I want to submit is that Equality Park on Broadway be renamed “Mayor Paul L. Gaines, Sr. Equality Park.”  Paul grew up in the Kerry Hill neighborhood and it would be entirely fitting that this park be named in honor of a person from that neighborhood who really made his mark on the city.

J. Clement Cicilline, M.S.        June 27, 2020