David Dinkins – Trenton’s Own – Dies
by Al Alatunji David Dinkins: From Trenton to Harlem And Then First Black Mayor Of New York Has Passed David Norman Dinkins was born in Trenton on July 10, 1927, the son of Sally and William Harvey Dinkins Jr., who had moved from Virginia the previous year. His parents separated when he was in the […]
by Al Alatunji
David Dinkins: From Trenton to Harlem And Then First Black Mayor Of New York Has Passed
David Norman Dinkins was born in Trenton on July 10, 1927, the son of Sally and William Harvey Dinkins Jr., who had moved from Virginia the previous year. His parents separated when he was in the first grade (they later divorced), and he and his younger sister, Joyce, moved to Harlem with their mother, who worked as a dollar-a-day domestic servant.
The children soon returned to Trenton to live with their father and his new wife, Lottie Hartgell. Dinkins’ father owned a barbershop, real estate and insurance office on Spring Street.
Dinkins was a good student, particularly in Latin, at Trenton Central High School. After graduating in 1945, he served briefly in the Army, but transferred to the Marine Corps and spent most of his 13-month hitch at Camp Lejeune, in North Carolina. Discharged in August 1946, he enrolled at the historically Black Howard University in Washington on the G.I. Bill of Rights, majored in mathematics and graduated with honors in 1950.
At Howard, he met Joyce Burrows, a sociology major whom he married in 1953 after her graduation. They had two children, David Jr. and Donna Dinkins Hoggard. Ms. Dinkins died in October at 89.
Dinkins and his wife settled in Harlem, where her father, Daniel L. Burrows, was a real estate and insurance broker with political connections. He had served two terms in the State Assembly and was one of the first Black lawmakers to join the inner circle of Tammany Hall, the Manhattan Democratic machine. A godfather to a generation of Harlem politicians, he took Dinkins under his wing.
Dinkins was a genuine trailblazer in New York City history. As a member of the “Gang of Four” — an informal group that included longtime US Rep. Charles Rangel, the civil rights attorney Percy Sutton and Basil Paterson, New York’s first Black secretary of state — he was part of a new wave of Black leadership that came to prominence in the 1960s and ’70s and greatly increased Harlem’s political influence in the city. When Dinkins denied then Mayor Ed Koch’s bid for a fourth term in the 1989 Democratic primary and narrowly edged out Rudy Giuliani in the general election, he became the city’s 106th mayor and its first one of color.
Mayor Dinkins inherited a city which like many US cities was experiencing high crime and the effects of a national recession. Mayor Dinkins, cool in his double-breasted suit, became the calm voice of reason in the tense city.
He was never really given credit for keeping the city under control during those turbulence times, but it was his administration the New York Police Department underwent a major expansion that would be credited with playing a significant role in driving down crime, he was ousted from office in 1993 in a close race by his political nemesis, Giuliani.
Mayor Dinkins died Monday evening at his residence on Manhattan’s Upper East Side in New York City. He was 93.
He is survived by his children, two grandchildren and his sister, Joyce Belton.
As a son of Trenton who has made us most proud, The Nubian News salutes and celebrates the life and legacy of David N. Dinkens. May you find peace in the transition and the beyond.