Thousands of political luminaries and San Francisco residents packed City Hall to celebrate the life of Mayor Ed Lee on Sunday.
Lee was eulogized as a tireless, unassuming civil servant, who broke through a political ceiling by becoming the city’s first Asian-American mayor.
“One of the great legacies of Ed’s life is that a new generation of Asian-Americans now know that an Asian-American can run and be successful in the highest office in this city,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
Acting Mayor London Breed recalled a trip she took with Lee to Shanghai, San Francisco’s sister city, a few years ago. She said Lee was treated like a rock star.
“He was like Beyonce with the mustache,” Breed said.
Governors, mayors and members of Congress with centuries of collective time in public office all marveled at the dedication Lee poured into his own public service. Along with Feinstein and Breed, Gov. Jerry Brown, U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, San Francisco Chief of Protocol Charlotte Mailliard Shultz, former Secretary of State George Shultz and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown all spoke at the service.
The mayor’s office says between a capacity crowd of around 1,600 inside City Hall and hundreds more who gathered in an overflow room at the San Francisco Main Library and Civic Center Plaza across the street, more than 2,000 turned out to pay their respects to the late mayor.
“Our mayor had kindness. He had class,” Breed said. “He fought for our city with the quiet dignity of a man who knows exactly what he stands for.”
Lee died on Tuesday morning after collapsing in a grocery store in the city’s Sunnyside neighborhood.
His six years as mayor capped a career that began as a civil rights attorney, advocating for the rights of tenants and immigrants. What followed was three decades of work inside city government, where Lee led the Human Rights Commission, City Purchasing and the Department of Public Works, and serving as city administrator.
He was appointed mayor in 2011, after Newsom became the state’s lieutenant governor.
Friends remembered him Sunday as a consensus politician who valued results over building public favorability.
“Ed’s life was about triumphing together,” Newsom said.
In addition to those eulogizing Lee, several other notable figures attended the service, including San Francisco sports greats Barry Bonds and Joe Montana, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and several current and past members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
During her remarks, Charlotte Mailliard Shultz shared letters sent to the Lee family from Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and musician Tony Bennett.
Chief of Protocol Charlotte Maillard Shultz delivers letter from @HillaryClinton at Ed Lee’s memorial service. Also read letters from @BarackObama and Tony Bennett. @KQEDnews https://t.co/sA43svtK1r
“Ed’s passion and dedication to the city he loved inspired everyone,” Mailliard read from Obama’s letter. “I know he will be deeply missed, and I want you to know that I am incredibly grateful for everything he put into advancing our shared mission and values.” A video performance of Tony Bennett singing “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” was also played in the rotunda.
In addition to the political luminaries, Lee’s daughters, Brianna and Tania, provided a look into their father’s home life.
“Our dad was not only our inspiration, but our constant source of humor, laughter and lightness,” said Brianna Lee.
Lee’s sense of humor, most generously described as “corny,” has come through in the public tributes paid to the late mayor in the days since his death.
Former Mayor Willie Brown said of all Lee’s “terrible jokes,” he remembers only the last one he heard.
Discussing a possible prosecution of President Trump, Lee told Brown, “We should see if we can get Alcatraz back operational.”
This post has been updated.