Frank Oliver, 95, a major figure in Philadelphia's Democratic Party, died Thursday, Feb. 1.
Mr. Oliver was treasurer for the Democratic City Committee and the leader of the 29th Ward. He was the longest-serving state representative in Pennsylvania when he retired in 2010, having been elected to 19 terms.
U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, chairman of Philadelphia's Democratic Party, said Friday that "nobody has a bad word" about Mr. Oliver. "It's a shame. He will be missed by me personally and politically," Brady said, adding that Mr. Oliver was known for his sartorial flair: "He was a dapper guy. He always dressed to the T's."
John "Johnny Doc" Dougherty, leader of the Philadelphia Building Trades Council, also used the word dapper to describe Mr. Oliver and said Philadelphia "lost a piece of its more civil political past" when he died. "Frank was a soft-spoken, dapper gentleman at all times, yet underneath that calm exterior was the heart of a fighter for the highest ideals of the Democratic Party. He will be missed."
State Rep. Jordan Harris called Mr. Oliver a "giant" and "fixture in North Philly."
State Rep. Donna Bullock, who holds Mr. Oliver's former seat, said that her predecessor mentored her after she was elected. "He emphasized that we represent the people of that community and that we should do all that we can in the best interest of the people."
Bullock said the fact that Mr. Oliver worked with her even after he had supported one of her opponents in a recent state House election showed how committed he was to the area. "It was about the community we serve. It wasn't about him. It wasn't about me."
Bullock also recalled that Mr. Oliver would still "hold court on his porch" with constituents even after he stepped down from office. "Constituents would still come to see him," she said. "People loved him that way."
Mr. Oliver's friends said that he had been in the hospital in recent months, but that they did not know the specific cause of his death.
People may pay their respects to Mr. Oliver at a viewing from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 9 at Wayland Temple Baptist Church, 2500 Cecil B. Moore Ave. A funeral service is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 10.