Joyce Burrows Dinkins was the city’s first African American first lady, serving alongside her husband, Mayor David Dinkins, from 1990 to 1993.
Mayor Bill de Blasio volunteered with the historic campaign and also served in his staff. He fondly remembered the woman who stood firmly by Dinkins’ side.
“Such a strong and good woman so dignified in everything that she did,” he said in an interview on Inside City Hall. “You know that she played a huge role in Mayor Dinkins, his whole path to the mayoralty and the work he did as mayor. She was, in so many ways, one of the great, strong forces of the administration, not because she was out front and someone who played a particularly public role, but we all could see she was a lot of what held things together.”
Joyce Dinkins was a beloved daughter of Harlem. She attended Howard University, where she met the love of her life, David, the ambitious young man who would go on to make history as New York’s first Black mayor.
“I’m honored to say that I knew Mrs. D, as I called her, before she became first lady, a woman of eloquence, intelligence and compassion. A gentle giant in her own right,” said Hazel Dukes, past national president of the NAACP.
Gentle, yes, but tough in her own way. Those who knew her best say it wasn’t easy to break down barriers in the largest city in the nation.
“She went through hell, not because she was the first African American first lady, but because so many vicious forces in this country could not accept an African American mayor, and there’s no question that David could not have held up as strongly as he did and make us all so totally proud if he could not go home every night and be assured that the love and affection and support was not there,” said former Rep. Charles Rangel. “David was the target of racism that was repressed until Trump resurrected it. But he was able to leave office as one of the most loved, admired and respected mayors of this town.”
“That was quite a responsibility,” said former City Comptroller Carl McCall. “She did it with dignity with grace, with humor, and she was really David’s most trusted partner. She was always there for him, with him. David always referred to her as my bride.”
The city’s 106th mayor was married to his bride for 67 years. Their wedding in Harlem was the talk of uptown in the summer of 1953. They were inseparable until the end.
Joyce Dinkins was 89 years old.