Born in Trenton in 1927, Dinkins attended Trenton Central High School graduating in 1945 in the top 10% of his class. After graduation, he went on to serve in the U.S. Marines with the Montford Point Marines from 1945 to 1946.
Dinkins then graduated from Howard University where he joined Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. He later earned a law degree from Brooklyn Law School.
Serving as the 106th mayor of New York City from 1990 to 1993, Dinkins was the city’s first and only Black mayor. He also served as Manhattan Borough President from 1986 to 1989 and in the New York State Assembly in 1966. Dinkins was a member of the “Gang of Four” consisting of other political heavyweights Percy Sutton, Basil Paterson, and Charles Rangel.
After leaving office, Dinkins remained active in the political realms and the community. He was one of the founders of the organization One Hundred Black Men, Inc. and was a member of Sigma Pi Phi (“the Boule”). Dinkins was a full-time faculty member at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs.
After meeting in college, Dinkins married his late wife Joyce in 1953. She passed away in October at the age of 89. The two had been married for over 65 years.
Dinkins is survived by his son David Jr., daughter Donna Dinkins Hoggard, grandchildren Jamal Hoggard and Kalila Dinkins Hoggard and sister Joyce Belton.
New Jersey Democratic State Committee Chairman John Currie said in statement that Dinkins was a role model for Black political leaders.
“I had the honor of meeting Mayor Dinkins on a number of occasions and he was a kind, decent and thoughtful man who made tremendous progress in his time as mayor, helping usher in a new era for the greatest city in the world,” Currie said. “On behalf of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee, I offer my condolences to his family and my hopes that Mayor Dinkins’ legacy as a groundbreaking political leader will continue to live on.”
In a statement, Gov. Phil Murphy said Dinkins broke down barriers. He announced that flags in New Jersey will fly at half-staff in Dinkins honor.
“The son of a Trenton barber and real estate broker, David Dinkins rose to lead New York City out of a time of political turmoil, seeking with a steady hand to heal longstanding rifts that had divided its residents,” Murphy said. “He faced early on the forces of discrimination that he would later commit his public career to breaking down when, as a student at Trenton Central High School, he wasn’t allowed to use the school’s swimming pool because of the color of his skin. That he was New York’s first Black mayor cemented a place for him in history, but he brought in other leaders who mirrored the City’s diversity, and initiated many of the changes that renewed its place on the world stage as a cultural center.”