An outpouring of Philadelphians came to pay their last respects to widely beloved City Councilman David Cohen, known as the “people’s champion.” Cohen died Oct. 3 at age 90.

Cohen’s contributions stretched from his work as a government lawyer in the Roosevelt era, a staunch fighter for civil rights and against racism, a defender of Communists, a labor attorney for the United Electrical Workers, and a fighter for labors’ rights and improved working conditions, to his decades of service as the most outspoken, fighting member of Philadelphia’s City Council.

In his memorial service and media reports, he was described as “the conscience of Council.” His honesty and integrity were never questioned, even by his most determined opponents. Just as he opposed the Vietnam War he stood firmly in opposition to the Bush administration’s imperialist junket in Iraq.

Councilman Cohen became the liaison for activists in winning passage of council measures on health care, housing for the poor, affordable transit fares, raising the minimum wage, clean air and ending the war in Iraq.

He stood up forthrightly against mayor after mayor in the interest of the poor and working people. He fought against cuts in city services and was always available to people in the neighborhoods when they need help.

Gov. Ed Rendell, upon hearing of Cohen’s death, called him the most tenacious political leader he ever encountered and noted he had to fight Cohen hundreds of times.

Philadelphians rewarded Cohen with the largest vote citywide that any council member had ever received.

Just weeks before his death, the Bread and Roses Community Fund paid tribute to Cohen and his wife Florence, presenting them with the Paul Robeson Social Justice Award in recognition of their lifetime commitment to equality and justice.

Although his 90 years took their toll on his body, his voice never failed him, even in his very last days. His passing leaves a gaping hole in the City Council for the people of Philadelphia.