Mayor David N. Dinkins

Reflections on the Passing of Mayor David N. Dinkins

New York Law School mourns the passing of one of its deeply cherished friends, Mayor David N. Dinkins. One of New York City’s most trailblazing, important, and historic civic leaders, Mayor Dinkins was elected the first, and only, African American Mayor of New York City in 1989. He was a lawyer, a veteran, and loved his city deeply giving to us a life filled with service. He came into office at a time of extraordinary fiscal, ethical, racial, and public safety challenges, and made significant achievements during his time in office. He was responsible for implementing historic changes to the City Charter that provide for so much of the excellence and professionalism in public service supported by the City’s basic governing framework to this day.

Mayor Dinkins remained extremely prominent and active in New York City’s civic affairs long after his time in office ended. A graduate of Brooklyn Law School, he became a dear friend and we considered him one of our own at NYLS. We had a long history of working together and honoring his service. Mayor Dinkins received an honorary degree at the School’s Commencement in 1991. He was a frequent presence at our programs, and always gave time to anyone who wished to speak with him, especially our students. In September 2013, we had the pleasure of sitting down together with him for an intimate conversation about his acclaimed memoir, A Mayor’s Life: Governing New York’s Gorgeous Mosaic. It was in his description of that gorgeous mosaic that he so perfectly captured the extraordinary beauty, complexity, and promise of our great city. In 2017, NYLS’s Center for New York City Law gave him its prized Civic Fame Award. That award is named after the iconic Civic Fame Statue that sits atop the City’s Municipal Building that was recently, and fittingly, renamed the David Dinkins Municipal Building. A veteran of the Marine Corps during a difficult time for Blacks and African Americans in the Armed Forces, Mayor Dinkins was deeply moved by the achievements of the Tuskegee Airmen, and regularly attended the Tri-State Chapter’s Annual Gala, led by its President, Judge Marc Whiten ’84, Special Advisor to the Dean, and hosted each year at NYLS.

Indeed, in every one of his acts, public and private, Mayor Dinkins displayed great knowledge and leadership and an unwavering dignity and kindness. He deeply believed in the aspirations and worth of every New Yorker. We know his legacy will continue on for generations to come, as will his approach to life, governance, and community. We deeply value our memories of Mayor Dinkins and the lessons he taught us. We are a better City and better New Yorkers because of him. We extend our most heartfelt condolences to his children and grandchildren whom he loved so dearly. 


Anthony W. Crowell
Dean and President

Ross Sandler
Professor and Director, Center for New York City Law