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David Dinkins

(b. 1927)


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(b. Trenton, New Jersey, 10 July 1927)

US; member of the New York State Legislature 1965–7, Mayor of New York City 1990–3 The son of a barber, Dinkins graduated BA from Howard University, Washington, in 1950. After service in the US Marines he returned to his studies in 1953, graduated from Brooklyn Law School in 1956, and joined a Harlem law firm that same year. Thereafter he combined practising law with active involvement in New York's Democratic politics. Gaining his first electoral office in 1965 he served briefly in the New York State Assembly. In 1967 reapportionment denied him the opportunity of standing for a second term. He turned instead to serving in appointed offices in City Hall, including ten years as City Clerk, 1975–85. Returning to electoral office in 1985 he became president of Manhattan. Five years later he attracted national and international attention by becoming New York's first black mayor. He achieved a surprise victory in the Democratic primary defeating the sitting tenant, the charismatic Ed Koch, running for an unprecedented fourth term.

Dinkins's leadership style was low key. He was a consummate organization man, skilled in brokering interests and building coalitions. Dubbed ‘Mr Nice Guy’ and ‘Mr Softie’, critics doubted he would be tough enough for the rough and tumble of New York City politics. After a turbulent four years in office grappling with the city's perennial problems of crime, corruption, racial tension, homelessness, Aids, and urban decay, his critics seemed to be vindicated. In 1994 he narrowly lost the mayoralty to his former Republican rival, Rudolph Guiliani.

Subjects: Politics — United States History.


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