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Leader who revived city dies aged 90

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Sir Richard Knowles, former leader of the Labour group on Birmingham City Council, has died after suffering from bladder cancer. He was 90. Credited with putting the city on the international map, he was group leader from 1984 to 1993.

Sir Richard KnowlesSir Richard Knowles, former leader of the Labour group on Birmingham City Council, has died after suffering from bladder cancer. He was 90. Credited with putting the city on the international map, he was group leader from 1984 to 1993.

During that time, Symphony Hall and the International Convention Centre were built. His predecessor, the current Birmingham Labour leader Sir Albert Bore, described him as a man who "could stand on the stages of the world but at the same time had a very common touch".

During his leadership, the Birmingham Royal Ballet and the CBSO were also established, and those paying tribute to his achievements today hailed him as a pioneer.

Councillor Mike Whitby, leader of Birmingham City Council, said his work and drive had left a legacy for generations.

He said: "Sir Dick Knowles was a man of great stature – a true statesman. He was the pioneering spirit in the regeneration of Birmingham in his time as leader.

"His vision and acute dedication to the rebirth of Birmingham leaves an everlasting legacy – cultural and iconic hallmarks that generations will enjoy for decades to come.

"Dick's contribution to public life will be celebrated, and he will be missed."

Born in Ploxton, Kent, in 1917, Sir Richard worked as a builder after leaving school at the age of 14 and became a trade union organiser for the industry in 1950, fuelling his move to Birmingham.

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He was elected to Birmingham City Council in 1972 and soon became chairman of the authority's planning committee.

He was knighted in 1989 and elected as Lord Mayor of Birmingham in 1994.

He died yesterday afternoon.

Sir Richard's only son Bill, 64, described him as a "wonderful father, great fun and a great joker".

Sir Richard's first wife Dorothy died in 1979, and he met his second wife Anne while working in Russia.

He also leaves a grandson Richard, a stepgranddaughter Joanna and two greatgranddaughters Amber, two, and Rosie, one.

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