Consultant Arnold Pinkney, who helped elect Dick Celeste governor of Ohio and managed civil rights advocate Jesse Jackson’s 1984 presidential campaign, has died.
“With his passing, a huge part of history goes with him,” Jackson said Monday.
Pinkney, who was also a successful businessman and political powerbroker in Cleveland, was 83.
Friends said Pinkney had been ill for months. But his influence remained considerable in local politics. Last June he endorsed Armond Budish for Cuyahoga County executive, becoming one of the Beachwood-based state representative’s key early backers. He also remained close with Jackson through his successful bid last fall for a third term.
“The Cleveland community has lost a remarkable public servant who cared deeply about the future of our children and the well-being of all people,” said U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge, a Democrat from Warrensville Heights and chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus. “Mr. Pinkney has been a friend and an astute political mentor to many, including me. My thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Betty, his daughter Traci and all other members of his family.”
Said Budish, in an emailed statement: “Our hearts, thoughts and prayers go out to Arnold’s family today. Mr. Pinkney was a dedicated leader and public servant not just to the African American community, but also to all of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County. His imprint on this region has been historic, and he will be sorely missed but not forgotten.”
Political consultant Mary Anne Sharkey, who worked with Pinkney on levy campaigns and on Frank Jackson’s campaigns, said Pinkney remained engaged on the mayor’s recent re-election campaign. She recalled working with Pinkney to prepare Jackson for a City Club of Cleveland debate with challenger Ken Lanci.
“Arnold paid attention to everything from soup to nuts,” said Sharkey, who was at Cleveland City Council’s Finance Committee meeting Monday afternoon as word of Pinkney’s death spread. Council members, she said, observed a moment of silence.
An insurance broker, Pinkney drew national attention as the campaign manager in civil-rights leader Jesse Jackson’™s 1984 presidential bid. Jackson didn’™t win, but he credited Pinkney with running a campaign that mobilized millions of previously disenfranchised poor and minority voters.
“I am very sad today,” Jackson told the Northeast Ohio Media Group in a telephone interview Monday. “With his passing, a huge part of history goes with him — that generation, led by Carl Stokes and Lou Stokes.
“A civic leader who could push or pull,” Jackson added. “He could manage in the background or lead from the forefront. He was forever blessed with a good mind and courage and could be trusted. His legacy of service will be with us a long time.”
Pinkney often said the highlight of his career occurred years earlier in the ballroom of the Beverly Hills Hilton in Los Angeles.
Minnesota Sen. Hubert Humphrey had made a strong showing, but narrowly lost the California primary in his quest for the 1972 Democratic presidential nomination. As the partisan crowd cheered, the former vice president’s wife, Muriel, motioned for Pinkney — then her husband’s deputy campaign manager — to join the candidate on stage.
“We’re going to win this race,” Humphrey told Pinkney on national television. “And if we win, you’re coming to Washington with me to help put this country back together.”
Everyone back in Ohio was watching, and Pinkney was convinced he was headed to the nation’s capital for a cabinet post or a high-level White House position.
“It was one of the proudest moments of my life,” Pinkney would recall years later.
Humphrey didn’t win, and Pinkney didn’t go to Washington. But his fascination with politics lasted until his death.