Charles B. Tisdale, the longtime executive director of the nonprofit Action for Bridgeport Community Development (ABCD) and the first African-American to be nominated by a major party to become mayor of Bridgeport, passed away Aug. 25 at the age of 86.
Tisdale was an elementary school teacher at Columbus School in Bridgeport before gaining an appointment as director of the Neighborhood Youth Corp. within ABCD, an anti-poverty agency serving Bridgeport, Easton, Fairfield, Monroe, Norwalk, Stratford, Trumbull.
He became ABCD’s executive director in 1968 and held the job until 1977, when President Jimmy Carter named him director of the Housing and Urban Development/Youth Conservation and Community Improvement Program. Two years later, he was named staff director of the Federal Inter-agency Committee on Integration of Human Delivery System.
In 1981, at the end of the Carter Administration, Tisdale took on the role of U.S.A. field ministry director for World Vision, focusing on urban development and entrepreneurship. In 1983, he gained the Democratic Party nomination in the race for Bridgeport mayor, fending off three white opponents including former mayor John Mandacini in a primary. Tisdale lost the election to Republican incumbent Lenny Paoletti by a 16,000-to-15,000 margin, with Mandacini siphoning 10,000 votes as an independent candidate.
In 1985, Tisdale sought the Democratic nomination for Bridgeport mayor but lost to Tom Bucci. Bucci defeated Paoletti in the election and appointed Tisdale director of Bridgeport’s Office of Policy and Development. Two years later, Tisdale entered the private sector with his consulting firm JST Inc. He returned as ABCD’s executive director in 1995 and retired last October.
Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim issued a statement praising Tisdale’s legacy.
“Charlie was a bigger than life community and political leader who made numerous contributions for decades to help people and create opportunities for them,” said Ganim. “Most recently as the Executive Director of ABCD, he assisted thousands with child care, energy assistance, and housing services. Our sympathies and condolences extend to his family along with our appreciation from all who have been touched by Charlie’s generosity and friendship over his long lifetime of dedication and service to others. He will be sorely missed.”
State Sen. Marilyn Moore, who is challenging Ganim this November, released her own statement calling Tisdale “my teacher, friend, and surrogate father. He was generous of his time and talent and served the entire community unselfishly. He was a mentor and friend to countless people who had a desire to seek public office. In my eyes he was a giant of a man in stature and political knowledge. I will never forget his impact on my life. I will miss him during this current journey as he counseled me throughout my life; as a child and adult.”