Columbians Ahead of Their Time
 George Elmer Pataki
George Elmer Pataki "When government accepts responsibility for people, then people no longer take responsibility for themselves."

George Elmer Pataki (1945– )
Law 1970

New York's first Republican governor in a generation, George Pataki shared the national spotlight in the days and weeks following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Since then he has played a prominent role in the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan, helping to establish a vision for a revitalized neighborhood and working to mediate disputes in the complicated rebuilding process. Pataki first entered the public eye as the youngest mayor ever of Peekskill, his hometown in New York's Hudson River Valley, and then served as a state representative and senator. Upon becoming governor in 1995, Pataki moved quickly to reinstitute New York's death penalty and worked repeatedly to lower state taxes. An ardent conservative on economic issues, Pataki is considered to be more liberal than the national Republican Party on social matters such as abortion and gay rights, and has long favored measures to protect the environment. Now in his tenth year in office, he is one of the longest-serving governors in New York history.

After earning an undergraduate degree at Yale, Pataki enrolled at Columbia Law School, where he served on the board of editors of the law review. A 1970 graduate, he was present in Morningside Heights for the unrest of the late sixties. In his autobiography Pataki praises the intellectual vitality of his fellow students, fondly recalling endless discussions in the law school lounge and at the Gold Rail bar on Broadway: "Every belief I ever held was challenged. . . . I was made to fight for every position I held dear, and to reject positions I had taken simply by default." He is one of several Columbians to serve as governor, joining DeWitt Clinton, Hamilton Fish, Theodore Roosevelt (said to be Pataki's hero), and Franklin Roosevelt. His daughter Emily began studies at Columbia Law School in 2003.

Read more about Pataki in the Columbia Encyclopedia.

Pataki lives in Garrison, like his predecessor Hamilton Fish.


Pataki's hero is Theodore Roosevelt.

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