Charles Tisdale — a former mayoral candidate and community leader lauded by friends and colleagues as “larger than life” — died early Sunday morning. According to voter registration records, Tisdale was 86.

“He created so many opportunities in Bridgeport,” said Carolyn Vermont, the mayor’s communication liasion for the City of Bridgeport. “He was an icon in the community.”

Tisdale served as executive director for the Action for Bridgeport Community Development, which serves 35,000 people in not only Bridgeport, but Easton, Fairfield, Monroe, Norwalk, Stratford, Trumbull and Westport. It was the started in 1964 by the Office of Economic Opportunity to work with people toward the eradication of the “paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty in this nation,” according to its website.

Vermont, also former head of the Greater Bridgeport NAACP and a recent candidate for state senator, worked for Tisdale at ABCD, and said he was a powerful inspiration and mentor. “He’s the one who talked to me over the years about getting involved in politics,” she said.

Tisdale is known for more than his role at the helm of the community agency. He also came close to being Bridgeport’s first black mayor in the early 1980s and was instrumental in the fight for civil rights and desegregation back in the 1960s. Vermont said she recalled that Tisdale had a position in the administration of President Jimmy Carter, though she didn’t remember what it was.

Others also remembered Tisdale as an important crusader for civil rights, and for the people of Bridgeort and Connecticut.

“A fierce and fearless fighter for justice, Charlie Tisdale led by his own example as a trailblazer and civil rights warrior,” U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said in a statement Sunday. “Larger than life, he mentored new leaders and touched countless lives. He leaves an enduring legacy— a lifetime of giving back to Bridgeport and Connecticut, deeply devoted friends and allies, and a beautiful family. I will miss him, a friend of four decades, whose passion for public service and humanity made him a model. My heart goes out to his family at this time of painful loss.”

Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim, who issued a statement Sunday afternoon, also praised Tisdale for his public service.

“Charlie was a bigger than life community and political leader who made numerous contributions for decades to help people and create opportunities for them,” the statement read. “Most recently as the Executive Director of ABCD, he assisted thousands with child care, energy assistance, and housing services. Our sympathies and condolences extend to his family along with our appreciation from all who have been touched by Charlie's generosity and friendship over his long lifetime of dedication and service to others. He will be sorely missed.”

Marilyn Moore, a state senator and Ganim’s opponent in the upcoming mayoral primary, offered her remembrances of Tisdale as well.

“Mr. Tisdale was my teacher, friend, and surrogate father,” she said in a statement issued Sunday afternoon. “He was generous of his time and talent and seved the entire community unselfishly. He was a mentor and friend to countless people who had a desire to seek public office. In my eyes he was a giant of a man in stature and political knowledge. I will never forget his impact on my life. I will miss him during this current journey as he counseled me throughout my life; as a child and adult.”