Celebrating Mayor David Dinkins 90th Birthday

July 10, 2017
David Dinkins in a navy blue suit standing at a podium and microphone, with a light blue background.

Photo by Diane Bondareff

David Dinkins, New York City’s 106th mayor and now a professor at Columbia University, celebrates his 90th birthday July 10 with a celebration at Gracie Mansion, the mayoral residence where he once lived. It will be hosted by the city’s current mayor, Bill de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray, and attended by Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger.

The event was live streamed on Mayor de Blasio's Facebook page and will feature remarks by the Mayor and First Lady, who met while they were working for Mayor Dinkins; a video tribute by former President Bill Clinton.

Dinkins is the city’s first—and so far, only—African American mayor. He took office in 1990, in the midst of a nationwide recession. It was during his administration that the cleanup of Times Square began, which eventually became a symbol of a revitalized New York.

Since leaving office in 1994, Dinkins has been a Professor in the Practice of Public Policy at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs, where a chair has been endowed in his name. He also hosts the annual David N. Dinkins Leadership & Public Policy Forum, which in recent years has focused on challenging issues such as education, criminal justice reform and race, the environment, immigration, voting rights and gun control.

"We are so proud that David Dinkins has been an essential part of the Columbia community for more than two decades since his time as our City's Mayor," said Bollinger. "From the generations of our students have taken his courses to the remarkable people he has brought to our campus for his annual Leadership Forum, from the invaluable Dinkins archive now housed in our library to his expert counsel and support on our new campus that has helped guide me, David Dinkins life and work reaffirm our faith in the meaning of public service. It is a delight to celebrate with him and Joyce on his 90th birthday milestone."

In 2006, the former mayor donated his papers to Columbia University Libraries, which established the David N. Dinkins Papers and Oral History Project, offering researchers a wealth of material to study his contributions to politics and society. It includes 10 hours of oral history recordings, 91 linear feet boxes that include of archival material such as speeches, capping material, position papers and more.

The collection is an important resource for studying Dinkins's life and career, a record of public service that includes serving as a New York State Assemblyman, President of the New York City Board of Elections, and Manhattan Borough President.

His papers join a library already rich in holdings of other New York City mayors including John Purroy Mitchel (CC’1899) and Seth Low (CC’1870), who in 1901 resigned as president of Columbia to become the city’s top executive. They complement the University’s extensive collection on Harlem’s political, social and cultural history, which includes the dancing great Arthur Mitchell’s archives; those of Basil Patterson, a longtime political leader in Harlem who frequently worked with Dinkins; and the papers of poet Amiri Baraka.