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David Dinkins
Dinkins in 2007
106th Mayor of New York City

In office
January 1, 1990 – December 31, 1993
Preceded by Ed Koch
Succeeded by Rudy Giuliani
23rd Borough President of Manhattan

In office
January 1, 1986 – December 31, 1989
Preceded by Andrew Stein
Succeeded by Ruth Messinger
Member of the New York State Assembly
from District 78

In office
Preceded by New district
Succeeded by Edward A. Stevenson, Sr.
Personal details
Born David Norman Dinkins
July 10, 1927(1927-07-10) (age 94)
Trenton, New Jersey, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Joyce Burrows
Alma mater Brooklyn Law School (LLB)
Howard University (BS)
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1945–1946
Battles/wars World War II

David Norman Dinkins (born July 10, 1927) is an American politician, lawyer, and author who served as the 106th Mayor of New York City, from 1990 to 1993. He was the first and, to date, the only African American to hold that office.

Before entering politics, Dinkins was among the more than 20,000 Montford Point Marines, the first African-American U.S. Marines (trained 1942–1949; Dinkins' service was 1945–1946); he graduated cum laude from Howard University;[1] and he received his law degree from Brooklyn Law School. He then began his political career by serving as the Manhattan borough president[2] before becoming mayor. Under the Dinkins administration, crime in New York City decreased more dramatically and more rapidly than at any time in previous New York City history.[3] After leaving office, Dinkins joined the faculty of Columbia University. Dinkins was a member of the Board of Directors of the United States Tennis Association and a member of the Jazz Foundation of America. He serves on the boards of the New York City Global Partners, the Children's Health Fund, the Association to Benefit Children and the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund. Dinkins is also on the Advisory Board of Independent News & Media and the Black Leadership Forum, is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and is Chairman Emeritus of the Board of Directors of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS.[4]

Early life and education[]

Dinkins was born in Trenton, New Jersey, the son of Sarah "Sally" Lucy and William Harvey Dinkins, Jr.[5] His mother was a domestic worker and his father a barber and real estate agent.[1] He was raised by his father, his parents having separated when he was six years old.[6] Dinkins moved to Harlem as a child before returning to Trenton. He attended Trenton Central High School, where he graduated in 1945 in the top 10 percent of his class. Upon graduating, Dinkins attempted to enlist in the United States Marine Corps but was told that a racial quota had been filled. After traveling the Northeastern United States, he finally found a recruiting station that had not, in his words, "filled their quota for Negro Marines"; however, World War II was over before Dinkins finished boot camp.[7] He served in the Marine Corps from July 1945 through August 1946, attaining the rank of private first class.[8][9][10] Dinkins was among the Montford Point Marines awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by the United States Senate and House of Representatives.[7]

Dinkins graduated cum laude from Howard University[1] with a degree in mathematics in 1950. He received his LL.B. from Brooklyn Law School in 1956.[10][11]

Political career[]

While maintaining a private law practice from 1956 to 1975, Dinkins rose through the Democratic Party organization in Harlem, beginning at the Carver Democratic Club under the aegis of J. Raymond Jones.[1][12] He 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".[13] As an investor, Dinkins was one of fifty African American investors who helped Percy Sutton found Inner City Broadcasting Corporation in 1971.

Dinkins briefly served as a member of the New York State Assembly (78th D.) in 1966. He was nominated as a Deputy Mayor by Mayor Abraham D. Beame but was ultimately not appointed. Thereafter, Dinkins served as President of the New York City Board of Elections (1972–1973) and New York City Clerk (1975–1985).[14] He was elected Manhattan borough president in 1985 on his third run for that office. 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. Dinkins came to visit the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, seeking his blessing and endorsement.[15]

Dinkins was elected in the wake of a corruption scandal that involved several New York City Democratic leaders. Mayor Koch, the presumptive Democratic nominee, was politically damaged by the corruption in his administration and his handling of racial issues, and among the candidates Dinkins was his greatest challenger.[16] Additionally, the fact that Dinkins is African American helped him to avoid criticism that he was ignoring the black vote by campaigning to whites.[17] While a large turnout of African American voters was important to his election, Dinkins campaigned throughout the city.[1] Dinkins' campaign manager was political consultant William Lynch, Jr., who became one of his First Deputy Mayors.


Dinkins entered office pledging racial healing, and famously referred to New York City's demographic diversity as a "gorgeous mosaic."[18] The rates of most crimes, including all categories of violent crime, made consecutive declines during the last 36 months of his four-year term, ending a 30-year upward spiral and initiating a trend of falling rates that continued beyond his term.[3][19] Despite the declines, Dinkins was hurt by the perception that crime was out of control during his administration.[20][21] Dinkins also initiated a hiring program that expanded the police department nearly 25%. The New York Times reported, "He obtained the State Legislature’s permission to dedicate a tax to hire thousands of police officers, and he fought to preserve a portion of that anticrime money to keep schools open into the evening, an award-winning initiative that kept tens of thousands of teenagers off the street."[21][22]

During his final days in office, Dinkins made last-minute negotiations with the sanitation workers, presumably to preserve the public status of garbage removal. Rudy Giuliani, who defeated Dinkins in the 1993 mayoral race, blamed Dinkins for a "cheap political trick" when Dinkins planned the resignation of Victor Gotbaum, Dinkins' appointee on the Board of Education, thus guaranteeing Gotbaum's replacement six months in office.[23] Dinkins also signed a last-minute 99-year lease with the USTA National Tennis Center. By negotiating a fee for New York City based on the event's gross income, 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.[1] The city's revenue-producing events Fashion Week, Restaurant Week and Broadway on Broadway were all created under Dinkins.

Dinkins's term was marked by polarizing events such as the Family Red Apple boycott, a boycott of a Korean-owned grocery in Flatbush, Brooklyn, and the 1991 Crown Heights riot. Lemrick Nelson was acquitted of murdering Yankel Rosenbaum during the riot. Regarding the Nelson verdict, Dinkins said, "I have no doubt that in this case the criminal-justice system has operated fairly and openly."[24] Later he wrote in his memoirs, "I continue to fail to understand that verdict."[1]

A 2009 report in The New York Times looking back at the Dinkins administration summarized its achievements, noting:

  • Significant accomplishments in lowering New York City's crime rate and increasing the size of the New York Police Department, and the hiring of Raymond W. Kelly as police commissioner;
  • The cleanup and revitalization of Times Square, including persuading the Walt Disney Corporation to rehabilitate an old 42nd Street theater;
  • Major commitment to rehabilitation of dilapidated housing in northern Harlem, the South Bronx and Brooklyn despite significant budget constraints—more housing rehabilitated in a single term than Mr. Giuliani did in two terms;
  • The USTA lease, which in its final form New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called "the only good athletic sports stadium deal, not just in New York but in the country";
  • Mental-health facility initiatives; and
  • Policies and actions that decreased the size of the city's homeless shelter population to its lowest point in 20 years.[21]

1993 election[]

In 1993, Dinkins lost to Republican Rudy Giuliani in a rematch of the 1989 election. Dinkins earned 48.3 percent of the vote, down from 51 percent in 1989.[25] One factor in his loss was his perceived indifference to the plight of the Jewish community during the Crown Heights riot.[26] Another was a strong turnout for Giuliani in Staten Island; a referendum on Staten Island's secession from New York was placed on the ballot that year by Governor Mario Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.[1] Dinkins defeated Giuliani handily in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, but Giuliani's margin in the other two boroughs was large enough to win the election.[citation needed]

Citywide tickets on which Dinkins ran[]

1989 NYC Democratic ticket
  • Mayor: David Dinkins
  • City Council President: Andrew Stein
  • Comptroller: Elizabeth Holtzman
1993 NYC Democratic ticket
  • Mayor: David Dinkins
  • Public Advocate: Mark J. Green
  • Comptroller: Alan Hevesi

Later career[]

Since 1994, Dinkins has served as a Professor of Professional Practice in the Faculty of International and Public Affairs at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs.[27] Since 1995, Columbia has hosted the annual David N. Dinkins Leadership and Public Policy Forum. Forum keynote speakers have included prominent New York and national leaders such as Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, Michael Bloomberg, Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Rangel.

Dinkins' radio program Dialogue with Dinkins aired on WLIB radio in New York City from 1994 to 2014.[28][29]

Although he has not attempted a political comeback, Dinkins has remained somewhat active in politics, and his endorsement of various candidates, including Mark J. Green in the 2001 mayoral race, was well-publicized. He supported Democrats Fernando Ferrer in the 2005 New York mayoral election, Bill Thompson in 2009, and Bill de Blasio in 2013.[30][31] During the 2004 Democratic presidential primaries, Dinkins endorsed and actively campaigned for Wesley Clark.[32] In the campaign for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, Dinkins served as an elected delegate from New York for Hillary Clinton.[33]


Dinkins' memoirs, A Mayor's Life: Governing New York's Gorgeous Mosaic,[1] written with Peter Knobler, were published in 2013.[34][35]

Personal life[]

Dinkins is married to Joyce Dinkins (née Burrows). They have two children. The couple are members of the Church of the Intercession in New York City. Dinkins is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha and Sigma Pi Phi ("the Boule"), the oldest collegiate and first professional Greek-letter fraternities, respectively, established for African Americans. He was raised as a Master Mason in King David Lodge No. 15, F. & A. M., PHA located in Trenton, New Jersey in 1952.

Dinkins was hospitalized in New York on October 31, 2013, for treatment of pneumonia.[36] He was hospitalized again for pneumonia on February 19, 2016.[37]

Humanitarian works[]

Dinkins sat on the Board of Directors and in 2013 was on the Honorary Founders Board of The Jazz Foundation of America.[38][39] He worked with that organization to save the homes and lives of America's elderly jazz and blues musicians, including musicians who survived Hurricane Katrina. He serves on the boards of the Children’s Health Fund (CHF), the Association to Benefit Children and the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund (NMCF). Dinkins is also Chairman Emeritus of the Board of Directors of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS.[4]



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Dinkins, David N.; Knobler, Peter (2013). A Mayor's Life: Governing New York's Gorgeous Mosaic. New York: PublicAffairs. ISBN 978-1-61039-301-0.
  2. "Dinkins Seriously Considers Entering the Race for Mayor" Lynn, Frank, The New York Times, December 8, 1988
  3. 3.0 3.1 Langan, Patrick A.; Matthew R. Durose (December 2003). "The Remarkable Drop in Crime in New York City" (PDF). International Conference on Crime. Retrieved November 15, 2007. "According to NYPD statistical analysis, crime in New York City took a downturn starting around 1990 that continued for many years, shattering all the city’s old records for consecutive-year declines in crime rates. [See also Appendix: Tables 1–2.]" 
  4. 4.0 4.1 "David N. Dinkins, Director at Large". United States Tennis Association. Archived from the original on July 20, 2010. Retrieved September 1, 2017. 
  5. Dinkins, David N. (17 September 2013). "A Mayor's Life: Governing New York's Gorgeous Mosaic". PublicAffairs.,+William+Harvey+Dinkins+Jr.+and+Sarah+Lucy%22&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjh49GNoqLPAhXs8YMKHZxFC2wQ6AEIFDAA. 
  6. McQuiston, John T. (October 20, 1991). "William Dinkins, Mayor's Father And Real Estate Agent, Dies at 85". The New York Times. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Hockenberry, John (June 27, 2012). "First Black Marines Awarded Congressional Gold Medal". The Takeaway. Retrieved July 29, 2015. 
  8. Marriott, Michel (28 November 1988). "To Run or Not to Run: Dinkins's Struggle". 
  9. "David Dinkins Biography – 1190 WLIB – Your Praise & Inspiration Station". Archived from the original on February 2, 2014. Retrieved September 23, 2011. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 Cheers, D. Michael. "Mayor of 'The Big Apple': 'nice guy' image helps David N. Dinkins in building multi-ethnic, multiracial coalition – New York City", Ebony (magazine), February 1990. Accessed September 4, 2008.
  11. "Columbia University Authentication". 
  12. "J. Raymond Jones, Harlem Kingmaker, Dies at 91" Fraser, C. Gerald, The New York Times, June 11, 1991
  13. Schapiro, Rich, "Harlem 'trailblazer', former World War II Tuskegee Airmen [sic] Percy Sutton dies", New York Daily News, December 27, 2009.
  14. "NYC 100 – NYC Mayors – The First 100 Years". Retrieved September 23, 2011. 
  15. Ehrlich, M. Avrum, The Messiah of Brooklyn: Understanding Lubavitch Hasidim Past and Present, (KTAV Publishing, January 2005) p. 109. ISBN 0-88125-836-9
  16. Lankevich, George J. (2002). New York City: A Short History. NYU Press via pp. 237–238, paragraph 3. Retrieved September 23, 2011. 
  17. Thompson, J. Phillip, "David Dinkins' Victory in New York City: The Decline of the Democratic Party Organization and the Strengthening of Black Politics", Political Science & Politics via, June 1990.
  18. Purdum, Todd S. (January 2, 1990). "Mayor Dinkins; Dinkins Sworn In; Stresses Aid to Youth". The New York Times. Retrieved August 13, 2010. 
  19. Dinkins, David N.; Knobler, Peter (2013). A Mayor's Life: Governing New York's Gorgeous Mosaic. New York: PublicAffairs. ISBN 978-1-61039-301-0. Riggio, Len, Foreword, page xi
  20. Barrett, Wayne (June 25, 2001). "Giuliani's Legacy: Taking Credit For Things He Didn't Do". Gotham Gazette. Retrieved November 15, 2007. 
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 Powell, Michael (October 25, 2009). "Another Look at the Dinkins Administration, and Not by Giuliani". The New York Times. Retrieved October 26, 2009. 
  22. Roberts, Sam (August 7, 1994). "As Police Force Adds to Ranks, Some Promises Still Unfulfilled". The New York Times. Retrieved November 15, 2007. 
  23. Siegel, Fred, The Prince of the City: Giuliani, New York, and the Genius of American Life (San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2005) p. 90
  24. Taylor, John (December 7, 1992). "The Politics of Grievance: Dinkins, the Blacks, and the Jews". Retrieved January 21, 2014. 
  25. Purdum, Todd S. (November 3, 1993). "Giuliani ousts Dinkins by a thin margin ...". The New York Times. 
  26. Shapiro, Edward S. (2006). Crown Heights: Blacks, Jews, and the 1991 Brooklyn Riot. Waltham, Massachusetts: Brandeis University Press, University Press of New England. ISBN 1-58465-561-5. Retrieved October 20, 2007. 
  27. "SIPA: Faculty David N. Dinkins". Columbia University. Retrieved September 23, 2011. 
  28. "Praise Team: On-Air Schedule". WLIB. January 6, 2009. Archived from the original on July 1, 2007. 
  29. Hinckley, David (2014-04-04). "After two decades, David Dinkins signing off at radio station WLIB". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2017-09-18. 
  30. "William Thompson picks up a pair of key endorsements" Fermino, Jennifer, Daily News (New York), June 3, 2013
  31. "The Ghosts of Mayors Past" Roberts, Sam, The New York Times, September 29, 2013
  32. "David Dinkins supports Wesley Clark, to join him in N.H.", USA Today, Associated Press, January 21, 2004
  33. "Reporters Notebook: New Yorkers make their mark on Maryland politics". The Gazette. Gaithersburg, MD. October 1, 2010. Retrieved September 23, 2011. 
  34. "Trentonian David Dinkins tells all in A Mayor's Life" Trenton (NJ) Trentonian, September 21, 2013
  35. "Their Honors" Roberts, Sam, The New York Times, Sunday Book Review, November 22, 2013
  36. "Dinkins hospitalized". New York: WNYW. October 31, 2013. Archived from the original on November 1, 2013. 
  37. "Former NYC Mayor Dinkins Hospitalized for Pneumonia". ABC Retrieved February 20, 2016. 
  38. "Hon. David Dinkins", Retrieved 2013-01-27.
  39. McMullan, Patrick, May 10, 2009. "The Jazz Foundation of America's 'A great night in Harlem' benefit" (photo archive), May 29, 2008. Event at the Apollo Theater, NYC. Accessed: May 10, 2009.

Further reading[]

External links[]

Unrecognised parameter
New district New York State Assembly
78th District

Succeeded by
Edward A. Stevenson, Sr.
Political offices
Preceded by
Andrew Stein
Borough President of Manhattan
Succeeded by
Ruth Messinger
Preceded by
Ed Koch
Mayor of New York City
Succeeded by
Rudy Giuliani

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