Mayor Vincent "Buddy" Cianci Jr. in 1998 poses before the city skyline in Providence, R.I. (Matt York/AP)

Vincent A. “Buddy” Cianci Jr., the flamboyant rogue who spearheaded Providence’s renaissance as its visionary six-term mayor and persisted as a dominant personality in Rhode Island politics for four decades despite a tendency toward infamy, died Jan. 28 at a hospital in the capital city. He was 74.

After a conviction in 2002 on a federal racketeering charge, Mr. Cianci (pronounced see-AN-see) emerged from prison in 2007 a decidedly unbroken man. He resurrected an earlier broadcasting career and became one of the Providence area’s most popular TV and radio hosts. The station WLNE-TV, where he hosted the weekly show “On the Record with Buddy Cianci,” confirmed his death but did not cite the cause.

Mr. Cianci — at once charming, cunning, ambitious and vindictive — was the epitome of the political survivor, a New England version of the late D.C. “mayor for life” Marion Barry.

Mr. Cianci served as mayor from 1974 until leaving office in 1984 after pleading no contest to assaulting a man he presumed was his estranged wife’s lover. In 1990, he staged a dramatic and seemingly impossible comeback, retaking the office that he would hold until the prison sentence that he described as a “bump in the road.”

“There was the good Buddy and the bad Buddy,” said Darrell M. West, vice president of governance studies at the Brookings Institution policy center in Washington and an authority on Rhode Island politics. “The good Buddy was wonderful in promoting the city. The bad Buddy was someone you didn’t want to cross. That was the quality that always got him in trouble.”

Buddy Cianci in 2014. (Steven Senne/AP)

West called Mr. Cianci “a charismatic individual who thought big. Rhode Island has lot of politicians who think small, about the next election, the next contract. He had a broader vision for Providence that turned out to be absolutely crucial to its rebirth.”

Memorably derided by the Wall Street Journal in 1983 as “a smudge on the road from New York to Cape Cod,” Providence later underwent a remarkable renewal credited in large part to Mr. Cianci’s leadership. In 2000, Money magazine declared Rhode Island’s capital — with its tony waterfront and luxury condominiums — the most livable city on the East Coast.

The son of a prosperous Italian American doctor, Mr. Cianci harbored an ever-present sense that he was an outsider in a state where power was largely divided between the WASP and Irish American establishments. He carried that “chip on his shoulder,” West said, as he advanced in state politics through talent and sheer force of will.

Working for the state attorney general’s anti-corruption task force, Mr. Cianci made a name for himself prosecuting powerful mob families in the early 1970s. Running on an anti-corruption platform, he defeated the 10-year incumbent Democrat, Joseph A. Doorley Jr., in 1974.

It was a wisp of a victory, with a margin of 704 votes. Mr. Cianci was the city’s first Italian American chief executive, its first Republican leader in three decades and, at 33, one of its youngest ever.

In office, he became known for savvy instincts and boundless energy. He chased opportunities to shake hands, showing up at parades, weddings and neighborhood barbecues. His seeming omnipresence fueled the joke that he would “attend the opening of an envelope.”

He looked like a man on the rise in the national GOP and was selected to second Gerald Ford’s presidential nomination at the party’s 1976 national convention. But being unable to run in an open senate election and his defeat in a governor’s race bred disenchantment, and his third mayoral election victory, in 1982, was as an independent.

Throughout his career, he projected an allegiance primarily to himself — and attracted allegiance from others that at times resembled a cult of personality.

Without the backing of a major party in a heavily Democratic state, he got by largely on his expansive and jocular temperament. He liked to quip that he was greeted by Democrats as warmly as “the Ayatollah Khomeini at an American Legion convention.”

For years, he was trailed by an air of sleaze and corruption. In 1978, the liberal New Times magazine published the accusations of a Wisconsin woman who claimed Mr. Cianci raped her at gunpoint 12 years earlier when he was a law student at Marquette University.

The mayor filed a $72 million libel suit against the magazine and settled for $8,500 in 1981. In legal filings, he admitted he had spent the night with the woman and had paid her $3,000 after she dropped an earlier complaint.

In Mr. Cianci’s second term, dozens of city workers and contractors were indicted on charges including extortion and fraud, and 22 were convicted, including his chief of staff and city solicitor. The mayor denied knowledge of the crimes and was never charged.

He was forced from office in 1984, however, after pleading no contest to felony assault of a man he believed to be sleeping with his estranged wife, Sheila. Mr. Cianci pummeled the man, Raymond DeLeo, with a fireplace log and an ashtray. He held a lighted cigarette to DeLeo’s face as Mr. Cianci’s official driver held the man down.

As part of the plea agreement, Mr. Cianci stepped down as mayor. He received a five-year suspended sentence and bided his time on talk radio until staging his comeback in 1990, when he won as an independent in a three-way race.

He immediately sought to reverse the decline of the city of 160,000, a onetime textile manufacturing center that had been reduced to calling itself the costume jewelry capital of the world.

Vowing to move the city and himself forward, he became a tireless promoter of Providence’s potential.

With the support of civic and business leaders, he transformed the city into a waterfront tourist destination replete with gondolas and ornate walkways and bridges, while also trumpeting its historical sites and its world-class educational and cultural institutions. He embraced the city’s gay community.

His next two terms were marked by reductions in crime and the development of downtown amenities such as a popular skating rink and the high-end Providence Place mall, which opened in 1999. He also lured biomedical research companies to the area.

He reveled in his reputation for being a character — strutting a conspicuous toupee, marketing his own line of marinara sauce and calling in regularly to Don Imus’s morning radio show.

His charm offensive hit a roadblock in 2001, when he was swept up in a federal investigation known as Operation Plunder Dome. The next year, a federal jury convicted him of racketeering conspiracy. Federal authorities alleged that he and his associates had essentially run city hall like a criminal enterprise, where city jobs and winning contracts involved the greasing of palms.

Although acquitted on many other charges, Mr. Cianci saw his chance for a seventh term implode in 2002, when he was sentenced to 64 months in prison.

He unsuccessfully appealed his conviction and reflected on his actions with a blend of remorse and bravado. “I used my public power for personal reasons. I admit it,” Mr. Cianci wrote in a 2011 memoir. “It probably wasn’t the right thing to do, but it certainly felt good.”

The book, written with David Fisher, was abundantly titled, “Politics and Pasta: How I Prosecuted Mobsters, Rebuilt a Dying City, Dined with Sinatra, Spent Five Years in a Federally Funded Gated Community, and Lived to Tell the Tale.”

Vincent Albert Cianci Jr. was born April 30, 1941, and grew up in Cranston, R.I. He attended a prestigious Quaker preparatory high school in Providence, was a 1962 government graduate of Fairfield University and three years later received a master’s degree in political science from Villanova University.

After obtaining a law degree from Marquette in 1966, he served three years in the Army before joining the Rhode Island attorney general’s office.

His marriage to the former Sheila Bentley ended in divorce. Their 38-year-old daughter, Nicole Cianci, who struggled with drug addiction, was found dead in 2012 of an apparent overdose, police said.

In January, he announced his engagement to Tara Marie Haywood, a model and actress in her 30s. A complete list of survivors could not immediately be confirmed.

After being released from prison in 2007, the ever-tenacious Mr. Cianci parted ways with his toupee — which he had dubbed “the squirrel” — and began to chart his political resurgence despite a cancer diagnosis in 2014.

That year, he declared his candidacy for mayor. Several Democratic candidates quit the race in order to coalesce around Jorge Elorza, a law professor and former housing court judge.

Mr. Cianci said his past would come up on the hustings. “I was mayor for 22 years, and I was accused of I don’t know how many crimes,” he told the New York Times during the race. “So all I can tell you is: ‘I am who I am. What you see is what you get.’ ”

On fumes of goodwill, Mr. Cianci attained 45 percent of the vote but, to the great relief of leaders in both major parties, he lost.