Love him or hate him, he was Providence's Buddy. He was part mayor, part radio personality, part felon, and part spokesman, but he was 100 percent Providence.
Vincent A. Buddy Cianci passed away Wednesday night after being rushed to Miriam Hospital for severe abdominal pain. Cianci had been hospitalized in November after nearly fainting at Providence City Hall during a ceremony to unveil his official mayoral portrait.
Buddy Cianci was larger than life. He was a local legend, a local celebrity, and he embraced that. He was brash, bold, and unapologetic. Many Rhode Islanders claim that he saved Providence, others claim that he led it to its demise.
He first became mayor of Providence in 1974 as a Republican, narrowly defeating incumbent Joseph Doorley, Jr., becoming the city's first Italian-American leader, and ending 150 years of Irish Democrat rule in Rhode Island's capital city. At 33 years old, he was also the youngest mayor in Providence's history. He had previously served as Special Assistant Attorney General and Prosecutor of the Rhode Island Attorney General's Anti-Corruption Strike Force. After winning his re-election campaign in 1978, Cianci failed at his bid for Governor in 1980, but was once-again re-elected in 1982, this time as an Independent.
Providence municipal regulations prohibit a convicted felon from holding public office; a rule Cianci himself endorsed in his first term. A special election was won by City Council Chairman and Acting Mayor Joseph R. Paolino, Jr. Paolino and Cianci remained close friends through his death.
After leaving office, Cianci became a talk show host on Providence's 920 WHJJ radio station.
Return to power
Cianci reclaimed city hall in 1990, winning the election as an Independent under the slogan "He Never Stopped Caring About Providence." He won re-election in 1994, and in 1998, he ran unopposed. It was during this era that Cianci was credited for bringing about Providence's renaissance. Providence gained the Bruins' AHL team from Maine, the new train station was planned and built, the public skating rink came to life, and so did the Providence Place Mall. Most notably, Cianci is credited with orchestrating and establishing Waterfire, and building up Waterplace Park.
Cianci was again forced from office in 2001 after being indicted on federal criminal charges of racketeering, conspiracy, extortion, witness tampering, and mail fraud. Several other public figures were also implicated in the scandal known now as Operation Plunderdome. Now, Cianci, the "anti-corruption candidate," was at the center of a corruption scandal where a top city aide was caught on video tape accepting a bribe from a city contractor.
Despite being acquitted on 26 of 27 charges, Cianci was convicted on racketeering conspiracy, and was sentenced to five years imprisonment at a federal penitentiary. Despite running unopposed in the 2002 election, Cianci had to withdraw his re-election bid, and resign from office.
Following the election loss, Cianci returned to the airwaves at WPRO, taking back his weekday talk show. He had recently announced his engagement to Tara Marie Haywood. That marriage would have been Cianci's third. He had been divorced since 1983. Cianci had one daughter, Nicole, who passed away in 2012. He has three grandchildren.
Love him, or hate him -- Buddy Cianci put the city of Providence on the map. Buddy is Providence. Providence is Buddy.