LUBBOCK, Texas — Community members expressed grief and remembered the life of local civil rights leader TJ Patterson after he passed away at age 85 on Wednesday morning.

“There are those that are present. They’re accounted for, but then there are those kinds of people that are a presence. You do not have to ask if they are here. Their arrival- their presence- speaks volumes. The atmosphere shifts and the environment changes when they come into the room. That’s TJ. That’s TJ Patterson. He was a presence,” said Difference Maker’s Fellowship Pastor Bill Stubblefield.

Patterson stood in many rooms, advocating and educating all who would listen, his supporters explained.

“The black American story is often skewed, glazed over, pushed aside. We have to tell that story and he was phenomenal at telling our story,” Stubblefield recalled.

First elected to Lubbock City Council in 1984, Patterson ended up serving for 20 years.

“The glass ceiling had been broken– that anybody can be on the city council and it’s not just for a certain group of people,” said Shirley Green, Executive Director for the Lubbock Roots Historical Arts Council and friend of the Patterson Family. 

One thing he was always known for was his Christmas visits to the people behind bars in Lubbock.

He marched for jobs, and against drugs and violence.

Green added, “He did leave footprints of leadership in the community. I know he did with me. I will miss him. I would call him and ask him questions. I will miss him a lot.”

Patterson left behind countless loved ones, including a son, and his daughter Shelia Patterson-Harris, who carries on his political legacy as councilwoman for District 2.

“His finish wasn’t crossing the finish line, if you will. It was passing the baton in the relay to the next generation,” Stubblefield said.