Former Wilmington Mayor and Delaware Congressman Harry G. "Hal" Haskell Jr. has died.
Haskell was elected mayor in 1968 as a Republican in a Democratic city, serving during challenging times of social unrest and street rioting after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Haskell, in conjunction with then Governor Russell Peterson, are credited with making the decision to remove the National Guard from the city during that time.
Haskell served one term from 1969 to 1972. Haskell lost his re-election bid to Democratic City Council member Tom Maloney, and became the last Republican to be elected mayor of Wilmington.
During his time as mayor, the city said he used his own money to create the Action Task Forces, which learned about residents' needs and led to the creation of additional parks and swimming pools.
"Hal was a dear, sweet and giving person,” said current Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki. “Anyone who met Hal would immediately pick up on his sincerity, authenticity and how he cared deeply for people. He appreciated the struggles that people go through and that understanding guided his actions. He was a giant of a person who will be missed greatly.
Prior to being mayor, Haskell served a two-year term in the U.S. House and was credited with starting the federal student loan program that still exists today. He had developed it a few years prior during his time working in the Office of Education under the President Eisenhower administration.
After his retirement from politics, Haskell created the Delaware Futures program which helps at-risk, economically disadvantaged students obtain a college education.
Haskell died Thursday at his Pennsylvania home. He was 98.
Funeral arrangements haven't yet been announced.