. — Mario Cuomo, the three-term New York governor and father of the state's current governor, died Thursday at the age of 82, according to multiple media reports.
Cuomo is among the most iconic New York governors of the 20th century, known for his liberal views, soaring speeches and deeply held beliefs that made him among the most prominent Democrats of his time. His death came the same day as his son, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, was inaugurated for a second term.
"He couldn't be here physically today, my father," Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday during his inaugural address. "But my father is in this room. He is in the heart and mind of every person who is here. He is here and he is here, and his inspiration and his legacy and his experience is what has brought this state to this point.
Mario Cuomo decided against a run for president in 1991, famously leaving an airplane on the tarmac in Albany that was destined for New Hampshire. His decision opened the door for Bill Clinton to win the party's nomination and the presidency a year later.
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A father of five, Cuomo took great pride in his humble upbringing. He was the son of Italian immigrants who worked in his father's grocery store in Queens before becoming a politically active attorney and ascending to the governorship in 1983.
"I learned about our kind of democracy from my father. And I learned about our obligation to each other from him and from my mother," Cuomo said in his 1984 Democratic National Convention keynote address — a speech that propelled him onto the national stage.
"They asked only for a chance to work and to make the world better for their children, and they -- they asked to be protected in those moments when they would not be able to protect themselves. This nation and this nation's government did that for them."
Mario Cuomo, a Roman Catholic, was known for rarely straying from his own personal beliefs, despite the political fallout. He never swayed from his opposition to the death penalty, even in the face of rising crime in the 1980s and early 1990s and public support for it. He vetoed the measure at least seven times during his 12 years as governor.
"I believed as governor, and I still believe, that the practice and support for capital punishment is corrosive; that it is bad for a democratic citizenry and that it had to be objected to and so I did then, and I do now and will continue to for as long as it and I exist," he wrote in a op-ed piece in 2011 in the Daily News.
He also opposed abortion, but was pro choice because he believed it wasn't a state's right to ban it — a position that put him at odds with the Catholic Church.
"Approval or rejection of legal restrictions on abortion should not be the exclusive litmus test of Catholic loyalty," Cuomo said in a groundbreaking speech in 1984 at Notre Dame.
Cuomo took office as governor in 1983 amid difficult fiscal times, but he limited spending in the wake of New York City's near-bankruptcy in 1975 and steadied the state's finances.
He became a champion for the impoverished, expanding programs for children and bolstering the state's spending on health insurance for the poor. Under his leadership, New York became one of the first states to aggressively lead the fight against the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.
And amid a drug crisis that plagued cities, he started the country's most extensive drug-treatment network, yet also ended up expanding the state's prisons. His son, ironically, has sought to close some of the prisons.
Mario Cuomo was last seen publicly when current Gov. Andrew Cuomo was re-elected to second term Nov. 4. He briefly took the stage with his son, looking frail while grasping and raising his son's hand.
In his acceptance speech, Andrew Cuomo lauded Mario Cuomo as "the father of the modern Democratic Party, a man who is all about principle and inspiration."
Indeed, Andrew Cuomo has often expressed adoration for his father and mentor.
"He is a truly self-grounded individual, at peace with himself and his view of the world," Cuomo wrote of his father in his own memoir earlier this year.
Mario Matthew Cuomo was born June 15, 1932, in Queens to his father, Andrea, and his mother, Immaculata.
A talented athlete with a tough and competitive spirit, Cuomo played baseball while attending St. John's University, and in 1952 signed a minor-league contract as an outfielder in the Pittsburgh Pirates system.
During that time, he married Matilda Raffa, whom he met in the cafeteria at St. John's.
After a brief stint in the minor leagues, Cuomo received his law degree in 1956 and settled his family in the middle-class Holliswood section of Queens.
By the late 1960s, Cuomo became an activist attorney, gaining attention for successfully representing the "The Corona Fighting 69", homeowners in Queens who faced eviction because of the city's plans to build a new high school.
"In the end, all we had on our side was the rightness of what we were saying," Cuomo wrote to the homeowners in 1972.
In 1974, Cuomo ran as lieutenant governor with underdog gubernatorial candidate Hugh Carey. Carey won a Democratic primary against Howard Samuels, but Cuomo lost as Carey's running mate.
When Carey took office, he appointed Cuomo secretary of state -- a little-known job that Cuomo seized upon and turned into a watchdog and advocacy position.
For his second term, Carey again tapped Cuomo has his running mate, and the pair won. When Carey didn't seek a third term in 1982, Cuomo, who had lost a run for New York City mayor in 1977, battled New York City Mayor Ed Koch in a bitter Democratic primary for governor.
But Cuomo pulled off an upset against the well-known Koch, winning throughout upstate, and he went on to win the general election.
"It wasn't Mario Cuomo -- most people don't know a whole lot about me -- it was the message we were delivering. Even when only vaguely perceived, it's the little guy against the big guy; the underdog against the favorite," Cuomo wrote his published diary in 1984. "It's 'us' against them. And 'us' won!"
He moved his young family to the governor's mansion in Albany, including his youngest child, ChrisCuomo, now a well-known CNN morning host.
Cuomo cruised to a second term in 1986, winning a landslide 64 percent of the vote against Westchester County Executive Andrew O'Rourke. He won a third term easily, but was tripped when he sought a fourth term in 1993, upended over rising taxes and his stance on the death penalty by Republican George Pataki.
Andrew Cuomo recalled in his memoirs breaking the news to his father than he had lost re-election as the elder Cuomo was preparing his victory speech. And the younger Cuomo lamented that he didn't do more to help his father win.
"I couldn't make myself say the words," the younger Cuomo wrote. "Instead I backed into the message. 'Pop,' I said, clearing my throat. 'We're going to need a different speech.'"
Cuomo's decision to not run for the presidency earned him the label as the "Hamlet on the Hudson," for his uncertainty over what to do. It was illustrative of Cuomo's well-known style as a law professor: a constant debater and thinker.
He later said once said, "Every time I've done something that doesn't feel right, it's ended up not being right."
He even turned down a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court in 1993.
"He is the first man in the history of this country to turn down a position on the Supreme Court, and it's because he was dedicated to New York," Clinton recalled in a speech in 2012.
Cuomo's ability to navigate tense situations -- which included a hostage situation at the Sing Sing prison just two weeks into his first term -- served him well after leaving public office as an attorney.
In 2011, for example, he served as a mediator in the fight between the owners of the New York Mets and victims of Bernard Madoff's massive fraud scheme.
While serving as almost a daily sounding board for his son, Mario Cuomo took pains to stay out of the limelight with Andrew in office.
He rarely offered comment on the goings-on in Albany, appearing only at major events with his son and family.
Reluctantly, Mario Cuomo attended an event in 2013 at the Capitol to have his portrait hung on his 81th birthday in the Hall of Governors.
He wouldn't sit for the painting, however, so his son had it done off a photograph. And the elder Cuomo didn't speak at the unveiling.
"We were missing just one portrait, by a famously shy governor, who was still unwilling to sit for a portrait -- considering it an act of indulgence, God forbid," the younger Cuomo said.