David Dinkins, New York City's first and only African-American mayor, died Monday. He was 93.
New York City Police Department officers were called to the former mayor's home Monday where it is believed he died of natural causes, the department confirmed to USA TODAY.
Dinkins broke barriers with his 1989 mayoral run, defeating three-term incumbent Ed Koch in the Democratic primary and Republican Rudy Giuliani in the general election by just 47,000 votes, the narrowest electoral margin in New York City history. Giuliani offered his condolences on Twitter, saying Dinkins "gave a great deal of his life in service to our great City. That service is respected and honored by all."
I extend my deepest condolences to the family of Mayor David Dinkins, and to the many New Yorkers who loved and supported him.
He gave a great deal of his life in service to our great City.
That service is respected and honored by all.
— Rudy W. Giuliani (@RudyGiuliani) November 24, 2020
Mayor Bill de Blasio praised Dinkins on Hot 97's ERBO Tuesday morning for creating afterschool programs, making the city safer and calling out "racism that pervaded the city."
"He just showed us what it meant to serve other people and to do it with just tremendous humanity," de Blasio said. "If not for David Dinkins, that division, that pain would have festered even more, and the city could not have moved forward."
"For decades, Mayor Dinkins lead with compassion and an unparalleled commitment to our communities," James said in a statement. "New York will mourn Mayor Dinkins and continue to be moved by his towering legacy.”
Born in Trenton, New Jersey in 1927, Dinkins graduated from Howard University and earned a law degree from Brooklyn Law School. Also a veteran, he served in the Marines in Korea before marrying Joyce Burrows, daughter of a Harlem politician who died last month.
He briefly practiced law before being elected a Harlem state Assemblyman and going on to serve as President of the Board of Elections, City Clerk and Manhattan Borough President. He spent 14 years of his career working in the city's Municipal Building which was named after him in 2015.
Dinkin's mayoral in came on the heels of two racially charged cases under the previous administration: the rape of a white jogger in Central Park that led to the arrest of five Black and brown teenagers and the racially-motivated murder Yusef Hawkins, a Black teenager.
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During his inauguration speech he emphasized the need for equality and vowed to be "mayor of all the people of New York."
"We are all foot soldiers on the march to freedom," he declared.
Dinkins accomplishments during his tenure as mayor include:
He spoke out strongly against apartheid and had the city divest $500 million worth of pension fund stock invested in companies that did business in South Africa. Newly freed Nelson Mandela made New York City his first stop in the U.S. in 1990.
He raised taxes to hire thousands of police officers.
He spent billions of dollars revitalizing neglected housing.
His administration got the Walt Disney Corp. to invest in the cleanup of then-seedy Times Square.
He signed an agreement with the United States Tennis Association in 1993 that gave the organization a 99-year lease on city land in Queens in return for building a tennis complex, guaranteeing the U.S. Open would remain in New York City for decades.
But Dinkins inherited a city plagued by the AIDS epidemic, guns, crack cocaine, soaring unemployment and rampant homelessness killed. New York City faced a $1.8 billion budget deficit which grew to $2.2 billion by the time he left office.
He also faced pointed criticism over his handling of a boycott by Korean grocers in Brooklyn, civil unrest in Washington Heights and a race riot in Crown Heights that saw nearly 200 people injured and which some historians believe lead to his defeat.
Giuliani defeated Dinkins in his bid for reelection in 1993. Dinkins accepted a share of the blame for the 1991 riots but blamed his loss on "racism, pure and simple" in his 2013 memoir.
After leaving office, Dinkins became a professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. He still remained active in New York City politics and hosted a weekly radio show, according to his city biography.
Dinkins is survived by his son, David Jr.; and daughter, Donna and two grandchildren.
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: David Dinkins dies: NYC first African-American mayor was 93