Culture Civil Rights
01-120116_Tate_Carroll.jpg Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, right, speaks with Francis X. Tate, the son former Philadelphia Mayor James H. J. Tate Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016 at the Municipal Services Building in Center City during a dedication of the former mayor's portrait.

December 01, 2016

Pop quiz: Who was the city's first Catholic mayor?

We tried to stump our current mayor with this question, but he had done his homework.

"James Tate," Jim Kenney said with confidence at the unveiling of a portrait and plaque of the city's 92nd mayor Thursday inside the lobby of the Municipal Services Building.

Like Kenney, Tate was a lifelong Roman Catholic – though he was raised in Nicetown, unlike Kenney, who was born and bred in good ole’ South Philly.

NoneThom Carroll/PhillyVoice

The portrait of former Philadelphia Mayor, James H. J. Tate that will permanently hang in the atrium of the Municipal Services Building in Center City Philadelphia.

The city’s Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy recognized Tate’s contributions to the city by unveiling and dedicating the portrait, painted by artist Al Hampson in 1975. It was donated to the city’s permanent art collection by Tate’s son, Francis X. Tate, and daughter, Anne M. Star, in honor of his memory. The MSB was selected as the destination for the portrait because Tate was instrumental in eradicating racial discrimination within much of the city’s unions during the building’s construction in the early 1960s.

“He negotiated with unions and contractors and actually shut down the construction,” said Francis X. Tate.

“Unions and contractors finally agreed to open hiring and that became a precedent for all city construction thereafter. He was ahead of his time, and we’re very proud of him.”

NoneThom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Philadelphia Mayor, Jim Kenney, left, and Francis X. Tate, look at the plaque that accompanies the portrait of former Philadelphia Mayor, James H. J. Tate that was unveiled Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, at the Municipal Services Building in Center City.

“Jim Tate represented what I hope to represent, and that’s rowhouse neighborhoods in our city of various ethnicities,” Kenney said.

“Obviously, he was an Irish American, but all of us ethnics relate to other ethnic groups. He was big on city services, on clean streets and on responsive city services, and he was a good man.”

Another portrait of Tate hangs in the mayor’s reception room inside City Hall. Tate served as mayor from 1962 to 1971.