Mayor of 'The Big Apple': 'Nice Guy' Image Helps David N. Dinkins in Building Multi-Ethnic, Multiracial Coalition

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MAYOR OF 'The Big Apple'

COURTLY, cautious, and unfailingly polite are the adjectives used most often to describe David Norman Dinkins, a 62-year-old Harlem resident. While these characteristics are not generally recognized as selling points in the rough-and-tumble world of New York (Total population, 7,072,000; Black population 1,694,000) politics, they are the very attributes that enabled Dinkins to sweep past Republican challenger Rudolph Giuliani to become New York's 106th mayor. His "nice guy" image attracted a multiethnic coalition (a "gorgeous mosaic," he calls it) of Black, Hispanic and White voters who had grown tired of the racial discord that has marred past elections.

Despite his victory, a grand jury probe into improprieties in Dinkins' stock holdings continues. His allies say the investigation is racially motivated.

Born in Trenton, N.J., Dinkins was reared by his mother and grandmother, who both worked as domestics to support the family (his parents divorced when he was 7). His father, William, still runs a real estate business in Trenton.

Known affectionately as "Dink" while growing up, Dinkins was class president (1943) at Trenton High School and graduated in the top 10 of his class, where he studied Latin and advanced math. After graduation in 1945 he tried to enter the Marine Corps, only to be told that the "Negro quota" was filled. He registred for the draft and joined the Army. After a stint there, he joined the Marines.

Within a year the war was over and Dinkins went to Howard University where he majored in math and graduated magna cum laude. At Howard, he was a mmber of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and was dean of pledges during the initiation of Andrew Young, the former United Nations ambassador and former Atlanta mayor who hopes to become the next Georgia governor. …