‘Mayor of Hill District’ Elbert Hatley passes

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ELBERT HATLEY

Dapper and low key, Elbert S. Hatley was rarely the face of development in Pittsburgh’s Hill District and beyond, but his input and direction were critical to projects ranging from Crawford Square to the August Wilson Center for African American Culture.

“He was an ambassador for the community, and an advocate and a leader in developing the Hill,” said Hill Consensus Group President Carl Redwood. “But beyond that he was a great man, quiet, analytical, and a gentleman. He will be missed.”

Hatley, former executive director of the Hill Community Development Corporation and longtime development consultant, died July 26 after a long battle with cancer. He was 70.

Former city Councilman Sala Udin served on the Hill CDC board with Hatley and said he was an able administrator.  

“He moved the CDC forward and accomplished many of its goals and initiatives,” said Udin. “We are all saddened by his death and wish his family well.”

Hatley was born in Apex, NC. and graduated from North Carolina Central University. He joined the US Army in 1966, the same year he married his wife Josephine. The family moved to Pittsburgh in 1968.

Chuck Powell, Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority diversity director, called Hatley “a giant.”

“He did so much to further diversity, inclusion and hiring of African-Americans on projects, he was never out front but he was in the trenches. He made my job a lot easier,” said Powell. “He was always there when you needed him, and I feel privileged to have known him.”

Hatley’s wife Josephine said the family is doing well and she feels partly numb, partly sad, and partly relieved that his pain is over.

“He was a 21-year cancer survivor. They gave him 19 months to live in 1993,” she said. “But he was always positive and aggressive in seeking any possible treatments. And we are blessed to have had him those extra 21 years, and to have enjoyed the wonderful person he was.”

After leaving the Hill CDC, Hatley joined his friend Irv Williams’ Ebony Development firm as a consultant. Williams, his voice still quivering, said he is devastated by Hatley’s death.

“He was my friend and advisor, and a mentor to me. He was with our firm for eight years and instrumental in projects like the August Wilson Center, the Kingsley Center One Hope Square, and of Course Crawford Square before that, the Housing on Dinwiddie Street, and purchasing the Granada Theater,” said Williams. “He was the Mayor of the Hill. But he was my friend more than anything else and I miss him a lot, and the community will miss him.”

In addition to his wife, Hatley is survived by his son Elbert S. Hatley, Jr. and daughter Melita Hatley. He also leaves behind seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild, and brothers. Estridge W. Hatley, Bishop L. Gene Hatley and Vernon W. Hatley.

Family visitation is scheduled for Friday, August 2, 4-8 p.m. at Samuel J. Jones Funeral Home, 2644 Wylie Avenue.  Services are scheduled for Saturday, August 3, 11a.m. at Macedonia Baptist Church, 2225 Bedford Avenue, Hill District.

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