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Dilworth Park Honors Man Who Transformed Philadelphia Politics

By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Philadelphia officials on Thursday unveiled the many new features on the West side of City Hall -- renamed from a Plaza to a Park.

But one thing that didn't change is the man to whom the space is dedicated: former Mayor Richardson Dilworth -- a transformative figure in the city's history.

Tall, handsome, well-dressed and confident, Richardson Dilworth defined "charisma" when he entered city politics in the 1950's. His victories, first as district attorney then as mayor, ended decades of republican dominance and led to an era of reform.

His biographer -- former Philadelphia Bulletin reporter Peter Binzen -- says he was a natural leader who was able to attract the best and brightest:

"They loved him. They couldn't work long enough for him and he always gave credit to them if things went well. If there was a problem, it was his fault."

The Dilworth era at City Hall, and later at the school district where he headed the board of education, is considered a golden age, but Binzen says it didn't last:

"Dilworth didn't have a successor really. That was one of the black marks against Dilworth. He didn't groom successors."

Dilworth passed away in 1974 at the age of 75.

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