Former Sunderland council leader remembered at tribute event

Former leader of Sunderland City Council Charles Slater.
Former leader of Sunderland City Council Charles Slater.
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Family and friends of a former civic leader who passed away earlier this came together to remember his eventful life.

Charles Slater died in February aged 88, just six months after the death of his beloved wife Sonia.

Former leader of Sunderland City Council Charles Slater memorial Son Laurence Slater and daughter Sharon Bourla

Former leader of Sunderland City Council Charles Slater memorial Son Laurence Slater and daughter Sharon Bourla

Known as Mr Sunderland, he served as a leader of Sunderland City Council, as Deputy Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear and as mayor of the city – in addition to working as a solicitor until his late 60s.

Mr Slater, son of Simmons furniture store manager Sidney Slater and his wife Sarah, was born in Gateshead at the start of the Great Depression and to Sunderland in 1940.

At 14, he enrolled in Hebrew classes at Ryhope Road Synagogue, where he met Sonia Clark and they were married for 59 years before Sonia’s death.

At Sunderland Civic Centre, a remembrance event was held in tribute to Mr Slater.

Former leader of Sunderland City Council Charles Slater memorial

Former leader of Sunderland City Council Charles Slater memorial

Organisers included former mayor and councillor Les Scott, who said: “We’ve had a great turnout which we didn’t really expect.

“It’s been a fitting event to a nice person who really devoted his life to the city.

“He earned the title of “Mr Sunderland” without any question.

“I think I was correct in saying that, possibly, he is the most influential politician in Sunderland’s 20th Century history.”

Former leader of Sunderland City Council Charles Slater memorial

Former leader of Sunderland City Council Charles Slater memorial

After being elected as a Labour councillor in 1958, Mr Slater successfully challenged his uncle, Sir Jack Cohen, for the post of opposition leader in the late 1960s – eventually taking his party to victory and becoming leader of the council.

His time at the forefront of local politics saw him welcome the abolition of the 11-plus, as well as spear-heading the introduction of comprehensive education and tertiary colleges.

He was most proud of his work on the bid to bring car maker Nissan to Wearside, fighting off national competition.

Mr Slater continued to practise as a solicitor until his late 60s, but his political career came to an abrupt end in the early 1990s.

Former leader of Sunderland City Council Charles Slater memorial Les Scott

Former leader of Sunderland City Council Charles Slater memorial Les Scott

Then a Town End Farm councillor, he quit as leader of the council in the face of behind-the-scenes jostling for power at Civic Centre and ward levels.

Although Mr Slater steered clear of all things political after stepping down, he still retained an avid interest in Sunderland’s future, as well as its history – giving talks on the city’s Jewish links.

Former leader of Sunderland City Council Charles Slater memorial Rabbi Jepp

Former leader of Sunderland City Council Charles Slater memorial Rabbi Jepp