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Dinkins, David N. (1927- )

In 1989, David N. Dinkins defeated his challenger, former federal prosecutor Rudolph (Rudy) Giuliani, to become the first African American mayor of New York City.

David Norman Dinkins was born in Trenton, New Jersey in 1927. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the Marine Corps at 18 and served briefly in World War II.  After the war, he attended Howard University, graduating with a B.A. in Mathematics in 1950.  Dinkins moved to New York City and received a law degree from the Brooklyn Law School in 1956.  Dinkins is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.

David Dinkins’s political career began when he joined the Carver Club headed by a charismatic politician, J. Raymond Jones who was known as the Harlem Fox.  Dinkins befriended three up and coming black New York politicians; Charles Rangel, Basil Paterson, Sr., and Percy Sutton.  In 1965, Dinkins won his first electoral office, a seat in the New York State Assembly. Shortly afterwards Dinkins was offered the position of deputy mayor of New York by then Mayor Abraham Beam.  Dinkins could not accept the post when it was revealed he had not paid income taxes for the past four years.

Dinkins did manage to secure the position of city clerk for New York which he held from 1975 to 1985. On his third run for the office, Dinkins was elected Manhattan’s Borough President in 1985.  In 1989, Dinkins decided to run for Mayor of New York.  He surprised political observers by defeating three time incumbent Mayor Ed Koch in the Democratic primaries.  Despite facing a strong Republican challenger in former federal prosecutor Rudolph Giuliani, Dinkins narrowly won the mayor’s race. 

Dinkins presided over a city well known for its municipal crises.  His term, however, was particularly turbulent because an unprecedented crack epidemic and the resulting drug wars swept through the city.  Especially affected were the impoverished African American and Puerto Rican neighborhoods that formed the core of Dinkins’s constituency. The crack epidemic also spawned a crime wave

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