Reubin Askew, Florida governor 1971-1979:
"He was one of America's finest journalists. He was just a really all-around intellectual as well as a concerned citizen.
I didn't really get to know him until we served together at the Collins Center (for Public Policy). He was a wonderful guy to have in terms of developing and evaluating public policy.
He had enormous integrity. Journalists cherished the times they had to work with him. He had an outstanding reputation even before he came to Florida. He had an innate sense of fairness in dealing with issues of public policy."
Nicholas von Hoffman, former Washington Post columnist:
"He was a rock. He was the kind of editor you dream to have.
He was fearless — a man of enormous integrity, but a man with a sense of proportion."
Von Hoffman recalled a visit Mr. Patterson made to a massive protest in Washington during the Vietnam War. He went in as a proponent of the war, but came away with a changed view.
"He went out about 9 o'clock and spent the entire night talking to guys who had been over there. The next day, he came in and said, 'I was wrong.'
Gene did listen. And he did change his mind.
On more than one occasion, I would hand in copy and he would look at it and say, 'Are you sure you want to print this?'
He was a guy who really believed in free expression. He really did.
No one who ever worked with him ever failed to learn what the high standards are (in journalism). You learned by watching him.
It's not just that he was a wonderful news person. He was morally a great, great man."
Howell Raines, former executive editor of the New York Times and political editor of the St. Petersburg Times:
"I interviewed him for my civil rights oral history, My Soul Is Rested. I wrote him about two months later looking for a job. He wrote me back the same day he got the letter and invited me to St. Pete for an interview. He hired me the day I came down.
His most important leadership was in civil rights. And he was not a sunny day soldier. He was writing columns that no one in the South was willing to write.
We had so many experiences in common, as Southerners.
Here's a guy who fought with Patton … who reported on the great civil rights story, who knew Lyndon Johnson. ... He was a colorful man. He was truly larger than life."