(Reuters) - Former Boston Mayor Kevin White, who led the city for 16 years and shepherded it through a period of racial tension and court-ordered school desegregation, died on Friday at age 82.

White, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2003, died at his Boston home, family spokesman George Regan told local media.

Boston was torn by racial violence in the 1970s as the city implemented court-ordered busing to desegregate schools. White, who ran the city from 1968 to 1984, was lauded for focusing on protecting children caught in the unrest.

He arranged for police escorts for school buses after ones carrying black children were pelted with stones as they arrived in white neighborhoods.

White, a Democrat, was also credited with revitalizing Boston's downtown, including the reopening of the historic Faneuil Hall Marketplace.

"Tonight is a sad night for the city of Boston," Mayor Thomas Menino said in remarks carried on local news channel 7News, an NBC affiliate.

"Kevin was the new era of mayors: Young, liberal, progressive, and he's noted for his belief that the revitalization of downtown was important to making Boston a world-class city," he added.

White made an unsuccessful bid for Massachusetts governor in 1970, and two years later was seen as a potential contender to run for vice president alongside George McGovern, but was ultimately passed over.

White left political life in 1984, choosing not to seek a fifth term in office, after a number of city officials were indicted following a federal corruption probe into his administration. He was never charged with any crime.

After leaving office, White taught at Boston University.

(Reporting By Cynthia Johnston in Las Vegas; Editing by Eric Beech)

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