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David Dinkins

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David Dinkins
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David Dinkins

David Norman Dinkins (born July 10, 1927) was the Mayor of New York City from 1990 through 1993, the first (and to date only) African American to hold that office. In World War II he served in the United States Marine Corps.

Dinkins was a product of the traditional Democratic Party organization in Harlem and became part of an influential clique of African-American politicians that included Percy Sutton, Basil Paterson and Charles Rangel. He served briefly in the New York State Legislature and for many years as New York City Clerk. He was named Deputy Mayor by Mayor Abe Beame but was ultimately not appointed due to scandal. He was elected Manhattan Borough President in 1985 on his third try. He was elected the city's mayor on November 7, 1989, having defeated three-term incumbent Mayor Ed Koch and two others to win the Democratic nomination and going on to narrowly defeat Rudy Giuliani, the Republican and Liberal Party candidate.

Dinkins entered the mayoralty pledging racial healing throughout what he called the "gorgeous mosaic" of New York's diverse communities. It was thought that his low-key personality, which contrasted so sharply with that of his predecessor, along with the symbolic aspect of his being the city's first black mayor might ease racial tensions. This was not to be. Dinkins' term was instead marked by polarizing events including the 1991 Crown Heights riots and the boycott of Korean groceries. Dinkins was torn between his base in the black community and the need to win broader support, since the African-American vote was insufficient to achieve electoral success citywide. Perhaps as a result, he was perceived by many as weak and indecisive, if well-meaning, in these crises. The diplomatic style that had seemed like an asset now appeared to be a liability. He was also hurt by the perception that crime was out of control, even though it later became evident that crime rates had begun to decline during his tenure. As a result, he did not successfully expand his constituency during his time in office. In 1991, he signed a law which made it illegal for companies in New York to do business with companies in Ireland that discriminated against Catholics.

In 1993, Mayor Dinkins again faced Rudy Giuliani in a bitter contest with the candidates' vote totals changing only marginally from the 1989 result. This time however, Giuliani emerged victorious. Dinkins was subsequently given a professorship at Columbia University. 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. In some of his actions, e.g. the Green endorsement, he has been in conflict with Al Sharpton.

Dinkins is married to the former Joyce Burrows and they have two children. The couple are members of the Church of the Intercession in New York City.

Dinkins is a prominent member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established for African Americans.

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