David N. Dinkins began his public service career in 1966 as a member of the New York State Assembly. He was President of the New York City Board of Elections and served as City Clerk for 10 years before his elections as President of the Borough of Manhattan in 1985 and culminated when he served as the first African American elected as Mayor of New York City in 1989. Mayor Dinkins’ Administration launched a number of widely heralded cultural staples such as Fashion Week, Restaurant Week, and Broadway on Broadway. His administration initiated the revitalization of Times Square and secured an unprecedented deal to keep the U.S. Open Tennis Championships in New York for the next 99 years. This arrangement continues to generate more annual economic benefits to the city than the Yankees, Mets, Knicks, and Rangers combined. Mayor Dinkins also instituted “Safe Streets, Safe City: Cops and Kids,” a comprehensive criminal justice plan that expanded opportunities for the children of New York and continued a steady reduction in crime throughout the five boroughs over the four years that followed his term. The Honorable David N. Dinkins joined Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) as a Professor in the Practice of Public Policy in 1994, at the conclusion of his term as the 106 th Mayor of New York City. He served on SIPA’s Advisory Board and presided over the annual David N. Dinkins Leadership & Public Policy Forum until his passing in November 2020. The inaugural David N. Dinkins Professorship Chair in the Practice of Urban & Public Affairs at SIPA, Michael A Nutter, 98th Mayor of Philadelphia was selected after a national search in 2015. Since the loss of its namesake, leadership over the prestigious event strategically transferred to the Dinkins Professorship Chair. This former mayor received hundreds awards and accolades during his long career as an elder statesman, most notably, the renaming of the David N. Dinkins Municipal Building on October 15, 2015. 2015 also welcomed the opening of the David N. Dinkins Archives and Oral History Project at the Columbia University Libraries. In July of 2017, Dinkins celebrated his 90th birthday and stepped down from teaching his popular course at SIPA the following year. He continued to play an active role at Columbia University and served on a variety of civic and charitable organizations and Boards up until his passing including the Association to Benefit Children, Children’s Health Fund, Coalition for the Homeless, Jazz Foundation of America, LIATI Group, The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, and Posse Foundation, to name a few. David N Dinkins was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the National Advisory Board of the International African American Museum; he served on the steering committee of the Association for a Better New York and the Advisory Council of New York Urban League. He was a founding member of The One Hundred Black Men and the Black & Puerto Rican Legislative Caucus of New York State; a former Vice President of the United States Conference of Mayors; Member-at-Large of the Black Leadership Forum; chairman emeritus of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS; Honorary Life Trustee of the Community Service Society of New York; Honorary Trustee of the Friends of Harlem Hospital; and Lifetime Member of the NAACP.
In 2013, Dinkins was finally convinced to publish his memoir A Mayor’s Life: Governing New York’s Gorgeous Mosaic, chronicling his career as a devoted public servant and a New Yorker in love with his city. Dinkins coined the description of New York City as a ‘Gorgeous Mosaic.’ Dinkins graduated with honors from Howard University in 1950 with a B.S. in mathematics and an LL.B. from Brooklyn Law School in 1956; he maintained a private law practice prior to entering public service. He was a proud recipient of The Congressional Gold Medal for his service as a Montford Point Marine in the United States Marine Corps, in the segregated military services of World War II. David N Dinkins and his bride, Joyce Burrows Dinkins met at Howard University and were married for sixty-seven years. They each concluded their time on earth peacefully at home of natural causes within six weeks of each other in 2020. Having raised their children, David Jr. and Donna Dinkins Hoggard, in Harlem, their two grandchildren were the light of their lives. Though he was born in Trenton, New Jersey, David N. Dinkins loved New York City, his Gorgeous Mosaic, with all his heart and he lived life on his own terms, surrounded by friends and supporters.