Edward A. Wiggins, 81, a former Pennsylvania legislator who represented a district in South Philadelphia during the 1970s and 1980s, died Sunday, March 8, of heart failure at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

He was pronounced dead at the hospital after being rushed from his home in the King Village section of South Philadelphia, said his granddaughter Laurena Tolson.

Mr. Wiggins was elected to the state House in 1976, was unseated in 1978, and won again in 1980. He lost his final bid for reelection in 1988.

He was described in a 1980 Inquirer article as a protégé of Rep. William A. Barrett, a longtime political powerhouse in South Philadelphia.

Mr. Wiggins' daughter, Clarena Tolson, was the first woman to serve as Philadelphia's streets commissioner.

"My father was a principled man who taught me all of the leadership skills that I have," Tolson said.

Mr. Wiggins was born March 13, 1933, in Philadelphia and graduated from John Bartram High School in 1951. He attended Temple University until 1953, when he was drafted into the Army. He served on active duty for two years and then in the Army Reserve until 1963.

During the 1960s, he owned Wiggins' Hoagie Shop, a grocery and deli at 26th and Federal Streets.

It was there that Mr. Wiggins began to mentor young men and become active in community affairs, his granddaughter said.

He represented the 186th District, encompassing Point Breeze and Grays Ferry.

After his legislative career, Mr. Wiggins worked as an administrator for the Philadelphia Parking Authority until the mid-2000s.

He met his future wife, Joyce, in the third grade.

"They'd been best friends for over 70 years," Laurena Tolson said.

She said Mr. Wiggins, known affectionately as "Sonny," was a horse-riding enthusiast and learned karate at the Marian Anderson Recreation Center.

In addition to his wife of 54 years, his daughter, and his granddaughter, he is survived by sons Edmond and Charles, and seven grandchildren.

A viewing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday, March 13, at Union Baptist Church, 1910 Fitzwater St. The funeral service will begin at 10 a.m. Burial arrangements were pending.

bmoran@phillynews.com

215-854-5983 @RobertMoran215