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David Norman Dinkins (July 10, 1927 – November 23, 2020) was an American politician, lawyer, and author who served as the 106th Mayor of New York City from 1990 to 1993, becoming the first African American to hold the office.

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. 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“. As an investor, Dinkins was one of fifty African American investors who helped Percy Sutton found Inner City Broadcasting Corporation in 1971.

Dinkins briefly represented the 78th District of the New York State Assembly in 1966. From 1972 to 1973, he was president of the New York City Board of Elections. He was nominated as a deputy mayor by Mayor Abraham D. Beame but was ultimately not appointed, instead serving as city clerk (characterized by Robert D. McFadden as a “patronage appointee who kept marriage licenses and municipal records”) from 1975 to 1985. 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.

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. Additionally, the fact that Dinkins was African American helped him to avoid criticism that he was ignoring the black vote by campaigning to whites. While a large turnout of African American voters was important to his election, Dinkins campaigned throughout the city. Dinkins’ campaign manager was political consultant William Lynch Jr., who became one of his first deputy mayors.

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Before entering politics, Dinkins was among the more than 20,000 Montford Point Marines, serving from 1945 to 1946. He graduated cum laude from Howard University and received his law degree from Brooklyn Law School in 1956. A longtime member of Harlem‘s Carver Democratic Club, Dinkins began his electoral career by serving in the New York State Assembly in 1966, eventually advancing to Manhattan borough president before becoming mayor. After leaving office, Dinkins joined the faculty of Columbia University while remaining active as an éminence grise in municipal politics.

David Dinkins’ mayoralty was marked by a number of significant achievements. New York City’s crime rate, including the murder rate, declined in Dinkins’ final years in office; Dinkins persuaded the state legislature to dedicate certain tax revenue for crime control (including an increase in the size of the New York Police Department along with after-school programs for teenagers), and he hired Raymond W. Kelly as police commissioner. Times Square was cleaned up during Dinkins’ term, and he persuaded The Walt Disney Company to rehabilitate the old New Amsterdam Theatre on 42nd Street. The city negotiated a 99-year lease of city park space to the United States Tennis Association to create the USTA National Tennis Center (which Mayor Michael Bloomberg later called “the only good athletic sports stadium deal, not just in New York, but in the country”). Dinkins continued an initiative begun by Ed Koch to rehabilitate dilapidated housing in northern Harlem, the South Bronx, and Brooklyn; overall more housing was rehabilitated in Dinkins’ only term than Giuliani’s two terms. With the support of Governor Mario Cuomo, the city invested in supportive housing for mentally ill homeless people and achieved a decrease in the size of the city’s homeless shelter population to its lowest point in two decades.

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In 2013, Dinkins published his memoir A Mayor’s Life: Governing New York’s Gorgeous Mosaic, chronicling his career as a devoted public servant and New Yorker in love with his city.

This former mayor has received numerous awards and accolades throughout his long career, most notably, the renaming of the David N. Dinkins Municipal Building on October 15, 2015. In July of 2017, Dinkins celebrated his 90th birthday and stepped down from teaching his popular course at SIPA the following year.  He continues to play an active role at Columbia University and serves a variety of civic and charitable organizations and Boards that assist young people including the Association to Benefit Children, Children’s Health Fund, Coalition for the Homeless, Jazz Foundation of America, The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, and Posse Foundation, to name a few.

In Memoriam: Mayor David Dinkins

photo of alumnus Mayor David Dinkins
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Dear Howard University Community,

Many of you have likely already heard the news that former mayor of New York City and esteemed Howard University alumnus David Dinkins passed away this week at the age of 93. His beloved wife Joyce Dinkins, a fellow Howard graduate, died fewer than two months ago. The two met while they were undergraduates at Howard; Mayor Dinkins studied mathematics and Mrs. Dinkins studied sociology. In 1991, he also received Howard’s Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award in the field of politics. In 1992, he served as the opening convocation speaker and received an honorary Doctor of Laws.

Mayor Dinkins was the first and only Black mayor of our country’s largest city, where he served one term, from 1990 – 1993. He took over the helm of New York at a time when the city was besieged by crime, corruption and racial division. While his election might not have ushered in a new era of peace and harmony, his ascendance represented a significant moment for the country, much the way Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ elevation to the second highest office of the land is meaningful today.

When Mayor Dinkins was elected, it was an important signal that the interests of the city’s African-American population and communities of color must be taken into account. It also demonstrated the power and relevance of civic engagement and the importance of mobilizing during elections. In order to enact change, Mayor Dinkins, who had worked in government for years before rising to become mayor, proved the importance of working within our democratic systems and structures.

As mayor, he was dedicated to serving all of New York’s many diverse populations and making his government as inclusive as possible. He appointed African-American, female, Hispanic and openly gay individuals to important posts. Mayor Dinkins was also determined to serve the interests of the city’s impoverished and underprivileged, including New York’s homeless populations.

“I intend to be the mayor of all the people of New York,” Mayor Dinkins said after his election. “This administration will never lead by dividing, by setting some of us against the rest of us or by favoring one group over others.” These are words with strong relevance and resonance for our current times.

Mayor Dinkins was a proud Howard alumnus who lived our values of truth and service. In all he did, both as mayor as well as in his life before and after rising to that position, he acted in accordance with the needs of those around him. As we prepare for the holiday of Thanksgiving, let us show our gratitude for the new ground that he broke during his life and the legacy he leaves behind.

David N Dinkins is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the National Advisory Board of the International African American Museum; serves on the steering committee of the Association for a Better New York and the Advisory Council of New York Urban League.  He is a founding member of the Black & Puerto Rican Legislative Caucus of New York State and The One Hundred Black Men; a former vice president of the United States Conference of Mayors; Member-at-Large of the Black Leadership Forum; chairman emeritus of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS; Honorary Life Trustee of the Community Service Society of New York; Honorary Trustee of the Friends of Harlem Hospital; and Lifetime Member of the NAACP.

Former New York City Mayor David N. Dinkins was honored with several awards, to include, the 2016 Emma L. Bowen Community Service Center Humanitarian Award on Thursday, June 22, 2017 before a group that included young students from the Emma L. Bowen Therapeutic Preschool, who graduated later in the day. The students performed “My White Shoes” by Pete the Cat for Mr. Dinkins during the ceremony, which recognized his dedication to children and those with mental health issues.

“The Emma L. Bowen Humanitarian Award is presented to individuals who epitomize the legacy of the late Emma L. Bowen,” said Patricia Jordan, Chair of the Board of Directors. She continued, “Mayor’s Dinkins’ commitment to children and mental health-related issues throughout his career embody the essence of our founder, Ms. Bowen. The Board and I are delighted to recognize his lifetime of distinguished achievements.”

David Dinkins Remembrance Messages

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The Dinkins family wishes to express their appreciation to everyone who has reached out with condolences, respect, and love.

David N. Dinkins was a devoted family man whose love had no bounds. He extended his wealth of compassion to the citizens of New York City and beyond the five boroughs of its Gorgeous Mosaic. As we mourn his passing, we cherish the legacy that he left behind.  He showed us how to care for one another with dignity and grace. He fought for what he believed in and never compromised his principles.

As the 106th Mayor of New York City and the first African American to hold that office, our patriarch’s place in history is secure. He was a trailblazer who forged a path for others to follow. He will live on as today’s and future leaders trace and advance from those footsteps.

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David N Dinkins transitioned peacefully from this life, at home on November 23, 2020. A memorial service will be held sometime after the covid crisis ends. He was predeceased by his beloved bride, Joyce B. Dinkins. He is survived by his children, David N Dinkins, Jr, and Donna Dinkins Hoggard; daughter-in-law, Paula Bormes, son-in-law, Jay Hoggard;  grandchildren Jamal Hoggard, and Kalila Hoggard Anderson;  grandson-in-law, Francois Anderson; sister, Joyce Dinkins Belton; numerous cousins, nieces, nephews, god children, and a vast number of beloved friends.

The Dinkins family thanks everyone for their comforting thoughts, prayers, and expressions of sympathy. In lieu of flowers, contributions/donations can be made to:

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  • The Howard University Scholarship Fund
  • The Schomburg Center for Research and Black Culture
  • The Montford Point Marine Association
  • The Harlem Junior Tennis and Education Program
  • New York Junior Tennis and Learning

Message from Ambassador Andrew Young

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David Dinkins was sort of my big brother at Howard University, in more ways than one. He was coming back from the Marines and I was 16 years old.  He had to settle me down, straighten me out, and help me to become a man. He was also the one who brought me into the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity in 1950.

Then, I had the chance to return the favor when I came to New York in 1977, and he was running for Borough President and I was UN Ambassador. He was like my family.

He met Joyce at Howard. Once he met her on campus, he put his arms around her and never let go. I talked to him when she passed, and he sounded good but it was almost as though he couldn’t think of life without her.  I went all over Manhattan with him in the rain, and we would play tennis together.

I guess he’s one of my longest friends, and because we both in politics and had so much in common, we were able to remain close for more than 70 years.

I learned a lot about being in politics from David, as I learned a lot about being a student. He and Charley Rangel, Basil Patterson, and Percy Sutton took me in. They treated me like one of their family.

Very few people have lived as meaningful and productive a life as David and Joyce did, and if she could have made it longer, he would have been able to make it longer.

But 93 is quite an accomplishment!

It was no sickness that took him. He stayed physically fit throughout his 93 years. I’m 5 years behind him, so I hope I can make it that long, that well.

He loved New York and New York loved him. He was the heartbeat of the City because he loved everybody.


BP ADAMS STATEMENT ON PASSING OF FORMER MAYOR DAVID DINKINS

 

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“New York City has lost a great champion for people of color and a historic leader for a more inclusive city. Mayor Dinkins was not just the first Black mayor; he was not just a symbol. Through his actions on behalf of lower-income people, he was both our effective advocate and confirmation of a long-held hope that our lives mattered to our government. May we all follow in his large footsteps and add our bright stitch to the gorgeous mosaic of New York City that he so loved.

 


MESSAGE FROM Hazel N. Dukes President, NAACP NEW YORK STATE CONFERENCE

Hazel Dukes
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Transition is a part of life’s journey.  He was not only my former boss, but a personal and dear friend.  He recognized me as his dear sister.  Rest in Peace, as you greet your beloved bride.

May you have eternal rest and peace.

 


Condolences from Reverend Al Sharpton

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“Today we honor the life and legacy of Mayor David N. Dinkins, a true leader. Through his simple yet immeasurable acts, New Yorkers learned how to be both strong and kind at the same time.  His life was the embodiment of a true statesman. Since my teenage years, I saw him as the picture of what a proud powerful Black man was by his not retaliating the anger often unleashed on him in the same way.”

 


Attorney General James’ Statement on the Passing of Former New York City Mayor David Dinkins

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NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James released the following statement after former New York City Mayor David Dinkins passed away tonight:

“The example Mayor David Dinkins set for all of us shines brighter than the most powerful lighthouse imaginable. For decades, Mayor Dinkins lead with compassion and an unparalleled commitment to our communities. His deliberative and graceful demeanor belied his burning passion for challenging the inequalities that plague our society.

“Personally, Mayor Dinkins’ example was an inspiration to me from my first run for city council to my campaigns for public advocate and attorney general. I was honored to have him hold the bible at my inaugurations because I, and others, stand on his shoulders.

“The voice that gave birth to the ‘gorgeous mosaic’ is now at rest. New York will mourn Mayor Dinkins and continue to be moved by his towering legacy.”


Farah Louis Statement on the Passing of David Dinkins, NYC’s First and Only Black Mayor

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NEW YORK – Council Member Farah Louis (D-Brooklyn) issued the following statement after the Honorable David Dinkins, New York City’s first and only African-American mayor, died at home on Monday. He was 93.

“From the United States Marine Corps to city and state government, former New York City Mayor David Dinkins was a man of humility with a heart for service to others. During his mayoralty, he championed issues that disproportionately affected marginalized populations across our city.

“Today, we mourn the loss of a man who believed in building communities and preserving our city’s unparalleled cultural diversity.

“On behalf of my constituents in District 45, I send our thoughts and prayers to the Dinkins family during this time. May he rest in power.”

At 93, he leaves behind two children, two grandchildren, and his sister, Joyce Belton.


Assemblymember Bichotte Remembers New York’s First Black Mayor David Dinkins

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(Brooklyn, NY) – November 24, 2020 – David N. Dinkins, the first Black mayor of New York City, who served a four-year term during the 1990’s, passed away on Monday night. “David Dinkins will be remembered as a pioneer in the history of our city,” said Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte. “As New York’s first Black mayor, he broke barriers and sought to unify New Yorkers during a tense time in our city’s past. Dinkins established the city’s first MWBE program, setting the course for minority and women entrepreneurs to prosper in the empire state. I am grateful for Mayor Dinkins’ contribution to our city, which helped pave the way for others, like myself, to serve.”

Under Dinkins’s term, the overall crime rate in the city fell 14 percent and the homicide rate fell 12 percent. It was the first time in more than a decade that the city became safer.

The Minority Women-owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) program he established boosted the award of contracts to MWBE’s by nearly 10 percent in a four-year span. He is a founding member of One Hundred Black Men – NY Chapter.


COUNCILMEMBER MATHIEU EUGENE ISSUES STATEMENT ON THE PASSING OF FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR DAVID N. DINKINS

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(Brooklyn, NY) – Council Member Mathieu Eugene issued the following statement on the passing of former New York City Mayor David N. Dinkins.

“Today, the City of New York mourns the passing of former Mayor David N. Dinkins, a trailblazer and compassionate public servant who made history as New York’s first African- American mayor. I want to express my deepest sympathies to his family and friends and may God continue to bless and comfort them during this very difficult time.”


On the passing of Former Mayor  David Dinkins – Marcella Maxwell

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Former Mayor Dinkins was a kind, sensitive humanitarian who loved people and helping senior citizens. His interest and support of the Arthur Ashe Stadium made New York a city of possibilities. His hard work and discipline in politics helped him to climb the ladder and achieve success. May he rest in peace.

 


Message from Inez Dickens

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As we awaken this morning to the reality of the loss of yet another giant, a Warrior King with the passing of our beloved Mayor David N. Dinkins. Today, we in the Village and beyond have a sad heart.  But, Mayor Dinkins has left us with a legacy of a great mind for our youth to look up to and a tenacious spirit for all to follow. He was a fighter for human, economic and social equality for all, a visionary with conviction and uncompromising, steadfast belief in doing what was right.

This Village had the absolute honor of having Mayor David N. Dinkins walk along side, in front and behind us. His legacy will forever push us forward and lift us on high. May he now Rest In Peace as he enters his mansion to greet his bride, First Lady Joyce. Thank you the Dinkins Family for sharing him and for allowing the Village of Harlem to have had this honor of Mayor Dinkins protecting and guiding us along the way. Peace.

Lovingly, your “Cuz” Inez and family.


Message from Michelle D. Stent, Esq., The City College of New York

My sincere sympathy and deepest condolences to the Dinkins family on the passing of Mayor David. E. Dinkins. He was such a kind, caring, and considerate man. The pride felt by so many when he became New York’s first and still only Black Mayor made him a role model for all of us. My memories of the Mayor go back to childhood when he was just one of the fun Dad’s.  So many times he helped my family and so many others, he was one of my heroes.  Always supportive, always there. He was magnificent; what a legacy for all New Yorkers. May he rest in peace.


Honorable Charles B. Rangel Passing of The Honorable David E. Dinkins

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David Dinkins was a very long and dear friend. I, along with millions of New Yorkers, with people all over the country and indeed the world will miss him. He loved New Yorkers and especially New York’s children. Even when leaving office, he never left the people who may have disagreed with him at times when
Mayor, but they still loved the beautiful way he represented New York. I will miss him, but I am confident that history will record the contribution he made to our gorgeous mosaic of New York City.

 


On the Passing of New York Mayor David Dinkins

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In these deeply divided and uncertain times, when autocrats grasp for total control and greed is shredding the lives of those who are most vulnerable, the loss of any who stand in the breach is cause for us to mourn.

The passing of Mayor David Dinkins, whose life-long compassion for people less fortunate and decades-long leadership, locally and nationally, gives us pause both to mourn and to celebrate a life well-lived. Many are those who benefitted from his wisdom, moral courage, humanitarian heart, and readiness to place all in the service of others.

As a husband to Miss Joyce, his late “bride” of 67 years, as a father, as a public servant and college professor, Mayor Dinkins was a guiding light and beacon of hope for us. Our hope now lies in the promise that others like him will step forward to lead and lend support, to help as he did to make the world a better place. When you add it all up—his understanding of the promises and pitfalls of America, his faith and philanthropy, his vision, his critical thinking and love—you have the sum of a brilliant, beautiful and generous spirit, a deep soul, who exemplified the very best in us all. We give thanks for his life and feel blessed to have known him.
– Khephra Burns and Susan L. Taylor


STATEMENT FROM ONE HUNDRED BLACK MEN OF NEW YORK ON THE PASSING OF THE HONORABLE DAVID N. DINKINS ONE OF THE ORGANIZATION’S FOUNDERS

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One Hundred Black Men of New York (OHBM) extends its deepest condolences to the family and friends of the Honorable David N. Dinkins. In 1963, he and four distinguished men founded the OHBM to bring together leaders to advocate for improvement in the Black community. We were blessed to have Mayor Dinkins as an active member, including serving as co-chair of the One Hundred Black Men Annual Gala.

While Mayor Dinkins made history as the first Black Mayor and faced several challenges in his role, he never strayed from his commitment to OHBM. He remained an incredible source of wisdom and camaraderie for all members of the organization.

We will honor Mayor Dinkins’s legacy at our annual Founders’ Day and Pinning Ceremony event on the evening of Thursday, December 10th.


POLICE ATHLETIC LEAGUE MOURNS THE PASSING OF DAVID N. DINKINS

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The Police Athletic League mourns the passing of David N. Dinkins who was a remarkable public servant. His intellect, grace and humanity were gifts to us all. His trailblazing ascendance to become the first African American mayor of New York City was a shining example of achievement and service.

“Mr. Dinkins was a great friend to the Police Athletic League, sharing countless hours with our young participants, who were captivated by his warmth, gentleness, and good humor,” said Frederick J. Watts, Executive Director, Police Athletic League. “We will miss him at our business luncheons and children’s events. We extend our sympathies to the Dinkins family.”


In Memoriam of David N. Dinkins

“Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation mourns the passing of Mayor David N. Dinkins, the 106th Mayor of the City of New York. A longstanding partner and supporter of Restoration, Mayor Dinkins was a champion for economic equity. His Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise Program is the foundation upon which all New York City MWBE programs have been constructed. Mayor Dinkins was a champion of homeownership programs to boost minority homeownership. Under his leadership, crime rates in New York City began a historic decline creating a safer environment for all New Yorkers to live, work, operate businesses and have fun. We owe a debt of gratitude for a lifetime in service to New York and the nation.”

-Colvin Grannum, President, Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration

“A remarkable and wonderful human being.”

-Hugh Price, Esq., former CEO of the National Urban League

“A Giant of a man who never got his due appreciation. The understanding of his immense contribution will grow and I hope, will be a beacon for what others can accomplish.”

-Ralph C. Dawson, Esq., former Chair of the African-American Leadership Council of the Democratic National Committee