The first and only Black mayor of New York City, David Norman Dinkins, who worked tirelessly to improve race relations in the nation’s largest city he referred to as a “gorgeous mosaic,” died Monday after being found unconscious at his Upper East Side Manhattan home. He was 93 years old.
Current Mayor Bill de Blasio released a statement on social media, calling Dinkins a mentor and friend.
“Chirlane and I are mourning a truly great man. David Dinkins simply set this city on a better path,” he tweeted. “He was my mentor, he was my friend, and his steadfast commitment to fight for that “gorgeous mosaic” inspires me every single day. We’ll keep up his fight.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo shared a photo of himself with Dinkins on Twitter, writing “NY lost a remarkable civic leader.”
Before entering politics, Dinkins was among the more than 20,000 Montford Point Marines. He graduated cum laude from Howard University and received his law degree from Brooklyn Law School and maintained a private law practice from 1956 to 1975.
The soft-spoken, bow-tie-wearing trailblazer became part of an influential group of African American politicians that included Denny Farrell, Percy Sutton, Basil Paterson, and Charles Rangel; the latter three together with Dinkins were known as the “Gang of Four.” Dinkins was one of 50 African American investors who helped Percy Sutton found Inner City Broadcasting Corporation in 1971.
On November 7, 1989, Dinkins was elected mayor of New York City, defeating three-term incumbent Mayor Ed Koch and two others in the Democratic primary and Republican nominee Rudy Giuliani in the general election. He was elected in the wake of a corruption scandal that involved several New York City Democratic leaders.
The crime rate in New York City had risen alarmingly during the 1980s, and the rate of homicide reached an all-time high during the first year of the Dinkins administration. Dinkins was criticized for supposedly not being able to control crime, even though the rates of most crimes, including all categories of violent crime, declined during the remainder of his four-year term.
During his final days in office, the Dinkins administration made a deal with the US Open that brings more economic benefit to the City of New York each year than the New York Yankees, New York Mets, New York Knicks, and New York Rangers combined. The city’s revenue-producing events Fashion Week, Restaurant Week, and Broadway on Broadway were all created under Dinkins.
Dinkins went on to become a professor of public policy at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. He also served as a board member for several organizations, including the United States Tennis Association and the Children’s Health Fund, and was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., the first Black intercollegiate Greek-lettered fraternity in the US.
Dinkins is survived by two children and two grandchildren. His wife, Joyce Dinkins, former first lady of New York City, passed away on October 11 at age 89.