David Norman Dinkins, New York City’s 106th mayor passed away Monday (November 23) evening at the age of 93.
Dinkins served as the NYC mayor from 1990-1993 as the city’s first, and so far only Black mayor.
A former member of the US Marines Corps’ first Black unit, a 1950 alumnus of Howard University, and member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Mayor Dinkins was known for his refined leadership style and bow-tie clad ensembles.
He dedicated his time in office and public life to reforming race relations. He spoke frequently of NYC’s “gorgeous mosaic” of racial, ethnic, and religious diversity, and worked to use it to propel the city forward after Ed Koch’s reign as mayor.
“I intend to be the mayor of all of the people of New York. This administration will never lead by dividing, by setting some of us against the rest of us or by favoring one group over others,” he said in a speech at City Hall soon after taking office.
As mayor, Dinkins worked tirelessly to bring economic equality and education to people of color in the city.
His time in office had a tumultuous backdrop of high crime rates, a national recession, and several incidents of racial tension during the early 1990s.
However, it was under Dinkins’ leadership that the NYPD expansion, “Safe Streets, Safe City” program, came to fruition and got the city’s crime rate down, a trend it’s seen for three decades.
Dinkins was a part of the “Gang of Four” Black politicians who emerged during the 1960s and ‘70s and ushered in Black leadership in the city.
This group included Mayor Dinkins, US Rep. Charles Rangel, New York’s first Secretary of State, Basil Paterson, and civil rights attorney Percy Sutton. They are credited for amplifying Harlem’s political voice in city and state politics.
Dinkins is credited with expanding affordable housing, taking direct action to manage the HIV/AIDS crisis, and continuing the effort of transforming Times Square by bringing new business to the area.
Under his leadership, he brought the US Open tennis competition to NYC in a 99-year lease agreement with the United States Tennis Association.
In his 2013 memoir, “A Mayor’s Life: Governing New York’s Gorgeous Mosaic,” Dinkins spoke about leading during high racial tensions, and some of his lowest points during his tenure, the Crown Heights Riots in 1991 and the 1992 nationwide riots after police were acquitted of charges in the beating of Rodney King.
Dinkins went on to teach at Columbia University after leaving the mayor’s office in 1994 and served as a board member for several organizations.
His wife, Joyce Dinkins also passed away this year on October 11. They are survived by two children and two grandchildren.
Photos: Getty Images