David Dinkins, New York City’s first Black mayor, has died, US media reported late Monday. He was 93.
The Democrat served as leader of the city from 1990 to 1993 after defeating Rudy Giuliani and Edward Koch.
His tenure was marked by racial strife — most notably the Crown Heights riots — and criticism that he was not up to the job.
Dinkins died from natural causes at home, the New York Times reported, less than two months after his wife Joyce also passed away.
A compromise candidate who remains New York’s only Black mayor, he inherited a city marked by racism, poverty and violence.
More than a million New Yorkers were on welfare following the recession, and over 1,000 murders were being reported annually.
Dinkins was elected as a stabilizing force, and famously described New York as a “gorgeous mosaic,” but he struggled to make headway.
Responsible for enlarging the police force to combat crime following the murder of a Utah tourist, he slashed the city’s budgets for education, housing, health, and social services.
But Dinkins also appointed one of the city’s most diverse cabinets — including numerous women, and New York’s first Puerto Rican fire commissioner and an openly gay Black psychiatrist as its mental health commissioner.
He was incapable of controlling his headstrong cabinet, the New York Times said, and he was heavily criticised for the subsequent policy gridlock.
Known for his tailored linen suits and unfailing courtesy, critics often suggested that Dinkins was “too nice” to lead the city.
Born July 10 1927, Dinkins grew up in Trenton, New Jersey, the New York Times reported.
In 1945, he joined the Marines and later attended the historically Black Howard University, where he majored in mathematics.
He married classmate Joyce, and the couple moved back to New York where Dinkins practised as a lawyer after putting himself through Brooklyn Law School, the New York Post reported.
He was appointed City Clerk in 1975 and served for a decade, the NYT said, before winning the mayoralty in 1989.
Dinkins was ousted by Giulini after only a single term in office, but in his concession speech, the Washington Post said that he told the crowd: “My friends, we have made history. Nothing can ever take that away.”
After office, he taught at Columbia University and hosted a local radio programme, the Post added.
He is survived by his children, Donna and David Jr., two grandchildren.
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