His persuasive manner and political pursuits beyond Gary kept him in that role even after black mayors were elected in the 1970s in Detroit, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Washington. (A black mayor had taken office in Washington shortly before Mr. Hatcher and Mr. Stokes were elected, but that official, Walter E. Washington, had been appointed by the federal government before residents there gained the right to elect their mayor in the ’70s, when they voted to retain Mr. Washington.)
Mr. Hatcher was active in national Democratic politics, serving as a vice chairman of the party’s national committee and as a leader of the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s two presidential campaigns in the 1980s.
He led associations of city officials, and often testified before congressional committees on federal domestic policy, as when he contended that a budget proposal that included reduced federal aid for programs helping poor children and impoverished older people showed that cities “are increasingly viewed as repositories for the poor, the black, the Latin, the elderly — those who are relatively powerless against the interests of stronger and more affluent elements of our society.”
A decade later, he asserted that another Republican president, Ronald Reagan, was trying to “wash his hands” of such people with his efforts to transfer responsibility for numerous domestic programs to the states under the banner of a “new federalism.” It was neglect by the states, Mr. Hatcher asserted, that produced most of the federal programs in the first place.
But Mr. Hatcher also found fault with liberals, black and white, telling a gathering of them that liberalism was “condescending” for conceiving leadership as coming “only from those who have made it in society.” He called for a coalition of liberals, black power supporters and white radicals.
Richard Gordon Hatcher was born on July 10, 1933, one of 13 children of Carlton and Catherine Hatcher, in Michigan City, Ind., where his father worked for the railcar maker Pullman-Standard.