San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee passed away early Tuesday morning at the age of 65, just hours after appearing at a public event, his office said. He reportedly suffered a heart attack while grocery shopping and was rushed to the hospital, where attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.
“It is with profound sadness and terrible grief that we confirm that Mayor Edwin M. Lee passed away,” the City of San Francisco said in a statement early Tuesday. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Anita, his two daughters, Brianna and Tania, and his family.”
Lee became mayor of San Francisco in 2011 when the Board of Supervisors assigned him to the post following Gavin Newsom’s resignation to serve as Lieutenant Governor. He was elected later that year and won re-election in 2015.
Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, who was a personal friend of Lee’s and urged him to put his name in the running to replace Newsom, remembered Lee as a groundbreaking figure for the Asian-American community.
“Those of us who helped orchestrate his selection as interim mayor knew he was going to be an important figure,” Brown told KPIX 5. “He clearly was important in the symbolism of the mayorship. His being the first person of Asian descent in a major American city in this nation was in and of itself decisive.”
“I don’t know San Francisco without Ed Lee,” Brown continued, growing emotional. “He was part of everything. He was the human rights director. He was head of purchasing during my administration. He was head of public works. He became the CAO (chief administrative officer) for the city… I just can’t imagine the city without Ed Lee.”
Board of Supervisors President London Breed became Acting Mayor of San Francisco upon Lee’s death. She is the city’s first black female mayor.