Herman Badillo, 85, a Bronx politician who became the first person born in Puerto Rico to become a U.S. congressman, died Wednesday of complications of congestive heart disease at a Manhattan hospital.
In Congress, Mr. Badillo concentrated on the problems of inner cities and urged federal help for poor members of minority groups. He also championed the rights of Puerto Ricans, noting in 1971 that they were subject to the draft but could not get federal benefits under the food-stamp and school milk programs or parts of Social Security.
"I represent the original immigrant," he said. "Everybody says that their parents and grandparents came here and couldn't speak English and they were poor. And in my case it wasn't my parents and grandparents. It was me."
He served in the House from 1971 to 1977, when he resigned to become a deputy mayor during Mayor Edward Koch's first term.
Mr. Badillo was born Aug. 21, 1929, in Caguas, Puerto Rico. His parents died in a 1934 tuberculosis epidemic and he first traveled to New York with an aunt in 1941. He attended public schools, City College of New York, and earned a law degree at Brooklyn Law School.
He started work as a city official in 1962 and his first elected position was Bronx borough president from 1965 to 1969.
He sought the Democratic nomination for mayor in 1969, 1973, and 1977. He mounted brief runs in 1985 and 1993 but withdrew.
In 2001, he waged a bitter primary election campaign against Michael Bloomberg for the Republican mayoral nomination. Like Bloomberg, Badillo was by then a former Democrat, having run unsuccessfully for city comptroller on the Republican-Liberal Fusion line in 1993. - AP