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Buddy Cianci remembered as a 'giant' of Rhode Island political scene

He was Providence's longest-serving mayor, elected to six terms with a total 21 years in office, and is credited with helping to revitalize the city.

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Providence, R.I., Mayor Vincent 'Buddy' Cianci Jr., stands during his inauguration ceremony, Jan. 7, 1991. Mr. Cianci, the wisecracking political rogue who presided over the revitalization of Providence during two stints in office cut short by criminal charges and a prison sentence for corruption, died Thursday, in Providence.

Charles Krupa/AP/File

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Former Providence Mayor Vincent "Buddy" Cianci Jr. has died.

He was the city's longest-serving mayor, elected to six terms with a total of 21 years in office. Despite having been forced to resign twice due to criminal activity, Mr. Cianci is being remembered as a "giant" of Rhode Island politics who helped revitalize the city. 

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Many in public office have made public statements offering their memories and condolences.

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza has ordered flags to be flown at half-staff to honor the memory of Mr. Cianci who, despite his criminal record, was credited by many for reviving the decayed capital city of Rhode Island into a tourist destination. 

Democratic Lt. Gov. Daniel McKee expressed condolences, saying Cianci loved Providence, and oversaw its renaissance in the 1990s. He added that the city would not be the same without him.

Cianci first became mayor in 1974, and a decade into his administration he pleaded no contest to assaulting a man with a fireplace log. That fall from grace didn't dissuade voters from re-electing him in 1990. His second administration also ended with a resignation when he was sentenced to five years in federal prison after being convicted of racketeering.

Despite his blemished record, Cianci remained a prominent voice in Rhode Island politics.

Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello says "Buddy" loomed large in Rhode Island's political landscape and he will be deeply missed.

He remarked on the former mayor's second career as a conservative radio and TV talk show host, which he says helped engage Rhode Islanders in the political process.

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Former Boston Mayor Ray Flynn also publicly shared his condolences, saying he'll miss his longtime friend. He recalled speaking with Cianci recently about family, politics, and Providence College basketball.

Mr. Flynn says he was proud to stand with Cianci during the good times and the rough days as well.

In 2014 Cianci ran for mayor of Providence one last time. He received 45 percent of the vote, and it was the only time he was defeated in a mayor's race.

Mayor Elorza, who beat Cianci in the election, says in a statement that Cianci's love for the city is undeniable, and his mark on the city will not be forgotten.

The Democratic mayor says the city will announce plans to recognize his memory.

This report contains material from the Associated Press.