"Ned" Pattison was born in Troy, New York on April 29, 1932. He graduated from Cornell University in 1953, and served in the United States Army from 1954 until 1956. He received a law degree from Cornell Law School in 1957 and practiced in Troy.
Pattison was elected to Congress in 1974 as a post-Watergate Democrat, one of the "Watergate babies", in a predominantly Republican district and served from January 3, 1975 until January 3, 1979. While a Member of the House of Representatives, he first served on the House Committee on the Judiciary, where as a freshman Representative, he played a key role in the reform of the national copyright law. During his second term, he served on the House Banking Committee. Following his admission of past use of marijuana, Pattison lost a bid for re-election in 1978 against Gerald B. H. Solomon. In 1980, Pattison ran for the New York State Senate, 41st district, but lost to incumbent Joe Bruno.
After leaving Congress Pattison returned to practicing law, and also worked as a political commentator on local television and radio.
Pattison's son, Mark was elected Mayor of Troy in 1995 and re-elected in 1999. Members of the Pattison family continue to be active in local politics.
The government center for Rensselaer County is named for him.