David Dinkins, the 106th Mayor of New York and to date the only Black person to serve in the role, died Monday from undisclosed causes. He was 93.
Born in Trenton, New Jersey in 1927, Dinkins served in the US Marine Corps from 1945-47 and then studied mathematics at Howard University. Graduating in 1950, he went on to attend law school at Brooklyn Law School, graduating in 1956 after which he settled in Harlem.
While maintaining a private law practice until 1975, Dinkins became involved in Democratic Party politics during the 1960s while also acting as an investor and entrepreneur, most notably as an investor in the black owned broadcasting company Inner City Broadcasting Corporation in 1971.
In the 1970s Dinkins’ political career advanced. From 1972-73 he served as president of the New York City Board of Elections, followed by a 10-year stint as New York City clerk that ended in 1985. Elected Manhattan borough president in 1985, he ran for mayor in 1989, narrowly defeating Rudy Giuliani who, in what is now a historical irony, conceded on election night with only a difference of 50,000 votes between them.
But Dinkins entered office just as a historic 30-year rise in crime rates was cresting. And though crime decreased every year he was in office — in part due to initiatives he spearheaded to increase the size of the New York City Police Department and keep schools open later at night — he was blamed by the media and his political opponents for what was still a historically sky high crime rate nationwide. In addition, the nationwide recession during the presidency of George H.W. Bush also caused a spike in unemployment in the city. As a result Dinkins was narrowly defeated by Giuliani in their 1993 mayoral rematch. Giuliani would later claim credit for the decline in crime that actually began under Dinkins.
Following his defeat, Dinkins joined the faculty of Columbia University where he remained up to his death.
Several NYC mayors posted tributes to Dinkins:
Rudy Giuilani wrote, “He gave a great deal of his life in service to our great City. That service is respected and honored by all.”
Michael Bloomberg remembered Dinkins as “a man, a Marine, a mayor and a friend who was deeply proud of his service to his city and country – and rightly so.”
Added current mayor Bill De Blasio: “He was my mentor, he was my friend, and his steadfast commitment to fight for that “gorgeous mosaic” inspires me every single day.” De Blasio also ordered flags to fly at half-staff Tuesday to honor the late Dinkins.
Lawrence Yee contributed to this report.