David Dinkins, a barber's son and the first and only Black mayor of New York City, died on Monday of natural causes at his home on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, the NYPD confirmed. He was 93. Dinkins, who was elected as the mayor in 1989, was famously referred to the nation's largest metropolis as a "gorgeous mosaic."
His death was confirmed by Mayor Bill de Blasio and comes less than two months after Dinkins's wife, Joyce's, death. However, despite creating history, Dinkins was turned out by voters after one term over his handling of racial violence in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, during his term.
Part of History
Dinkins was found unresponsive at his home by a home health aide, who informed 911. He was later pronounced dead. Dinkins, who defeated three-term incumbent Ed Koch in the 1989 Democratic primary, beat Republican Rudy Giuliani that year to become the city's 106th mayor.
Giuliani also mourned the death of Dinkins on Monday night and tweeted: "I extend my deepest condolences to the family of Mayor David Dinkins, and to the many New Yorkers who loved and supported him." Dinkins was considered a cautious diplomat but had often been said to have lacked the flamboyance of the likes of Edward I. Koch, who preceded him, or Giuliani, who succeeded him.
In fact, Dinkins was a kind of compromise choice for New Yorkers as they were too tired and exhausted with growing crime, racial discrimination and violence, crime and fiscal turmoil. He was considered an apt person to change the image and fortune of the city.
Dinkins had a turbulent time in office that was marked by widespread crime and racial unrest. Despite the turmoil, he led the city with a grace and dignity that was respected even by his political rivals and left him an admired figure even after his tenure was long over.
An Illustrious Career
Born on July 10, 1927 in Trenton, N.J., the young Dinkins and his family moved to Harlem but he returned to Trenton to attend high school. Dinkins entered public life in the 1960s after his election to the New York State Assembly.
He remained a Democratic district leader for two decades and went on to become the first Black to head of city Board of Elections in 1972. He was almost set to become the city's first Black deputy mayor, appointed by then-Mayor Abraham Beame but sadly couldn't after it was discovered that he failed to pay his taxes for four years.
In 1975, he became city clerk and ran but lost for Manhattan borough president. He remained a prominent figure, appearing with other Black leaders such as Jesse Jackson.
"David was a historic mayor. He showed that a black candidate can win biracial support in a city-wide race," said former Governor David Paterson, the first African-American governor.
Among his many achievements, Dinkins will be remembered for his term as the mayor of NYC. One of the personal highlights of Dinkins' tenure was welcoming to New York South African leader Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid activist who spent 27 years in prison.