David Norman Dinkins was born on July 10, 1927, in Trenton, New Jersey. He was raised in Trenton until the Depression, when his family moved to Harlem. He served as the first African American mayor of New York City.
Dinkins served as a Marine during World War II. After receiving a B.S. in mathematics from Howard University in 1950, Dinkins married Joyce Burrows in 1953. They have two children, David, Jr. and Donna. He went on to graduate from Brooklyn Law School in 1956 and then started a private law practice that he continued until 1975.
Over the years, Dinkins established a legacy of working to empower poor people and minorities. Elected to the New York State Assembly in 1966, he helped create the Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge (SEEK) program, which provides grants and educational assistance to low-income students. He established guidelines that encouraged wider voter registration as president of the New York City Board of Elections, a post he held from 1975 until he became the President of the Borough of Manhattan in 1985.
Dinkins was elected mayor in 1989, inheriting a city budget deficit of $500 million during a massive recession. At that time, one in four New Yorkers was classified as poor, a figure unequaled since the Depression. Dinkins focused on crime and problems of racial inequality and initiated a program called "Safe Streets, Safe City: Cops and Kids," reducing crime and expanding opportunities for New York's children. He championed issues such as drug abuse prevention, AIDS, housing and education. However, he was unable to overcome the persistent problems facing New York at the time, causing him to lose the 1993 election to Mayor Rudolph Guiliani.
Dinkins has continued to be critical of problems within the criminal justice system, including abusive police and institutionalized racism in the courts. In 1999, his beliefs led to his arrest along with approximately 1,200 others while protesting the shooting of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed immigrant from West Africa who was shot 42 times by police.
In 2002, Dinkins served as professor in the practice of public affairs at Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. He hosts Dialogue with Dinkins, a public affairs radio program, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Board of Governors of the American Stock Exchange and many other organizations, especially ones which benefit children and young people. When not working, Dinkins could often be found on a tennis court.