David Dinkins, the first and thus far only Black mayor of New York City, died on Monday evening at age 93.

"America has lost a great patriot," former Representative Charles Rangel told Gothamist/WNYC on Tuesday morning. Rangel, a longtime friend, was devastated by the news and said he had spoken to Dinkins on Monday.

"He was a great mayor and truly a great gentleman," he added.

The NYPD said it appeared he died of natural causes, according to the AP. Dinkins's wife, Joyce, whom he married in 1953, passed away last month.

"I see New York as a gorgeous mosaic of race and religious faith, of national origin and sexual orientation, of individuals whose families arrived yesterday and generations ago, coming through Ellis Island or Kennedy Airport or on buses bound for the Port Authority," Dinkins famously said in his inaugural address on January 1st, 1990. He brought a calm and less showy approach to the office, in a marked change from his predecessor Ed Koch, whom he beat in the 1989 Democratic primary. Dinkins later defeated the Republican candidate, former U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani, by 47,000 votes, the narrowest margin of victory in a mayoral election.

Mayor Bill de Blasio worked in the Dinkins administration, where he met his wife, Chirlane McCray, who was another staffer. In 2015, de Blasio renamed the Manhattan Municipal Building after Dinkins, who worked at 1 Centre Street for 14 years. At the time, de Blasio said, "Those of us who were lucky to serve in the Dinkins Administration had the honor of serving a leader who took challenges head on. He’s left an indelible impact on this city – and on Chirlane’s and my lives. We are so grateful for Mayor Dinkins’ decades of public service and everything he’s done to ensure a stronger, safer city."

However, his deliberative style was viewed by critics as indecisiveness, and he lost his reelection bid to Giuliani after a tumultuous first term marred by a recession, high unemployment, a soaring murder rate, and the Crown Heights race riots.

The riots took place in August 1991: On August 19th, Gavin Cato, a 7-year-old Black child, was killed and his cousin was seriously injured by a driver in the motorcade of Lubavitcher Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson; and then, on August 20th, Yankel Rosenbaum, a 29-year-old Orthodox Jewish graduate student, was killed by a Black teenager who was part of a group who confronted him. The Black community was upset that the driver was removed from the scene by private ambulance and rumors that the Hatzolah, the Jewish ambulance service, didn't treat Cato and his cousin (city EMS attended to the children), adding to feelings that the Hasidic community had preferential treatment. There were three days of rioting, looting, and protests.

Dinkins was blamed for being slow to react to deescalate the tensions (a 1993 state report absolved him and Police Commissioner Lee Brown of accusations they held back police response, but criticized Dinkins for not questioning police tactics sooner). The NY Times wrote the following month, "The Mayor was in the middle, in what he called a lose-lose situation. His language reflected the strains. At a memorial service for Gavin on August 25th, he said: 'Two tragedies. One a tragedy because it was an accident. The other a tragedy because it was not.'"

In a 2016 interview with Gothamist, Dinkins said, "The word was that I, David Dinkins, the mayor, had held back the police and permitted blacks to attack Jews in their homes. This was not so. It was just inaccurate. There is nothing worse than being falsely accused. Ed Koch called it a pogrom."

"It was sad, but what people ought to think about when they think of Crown Heights is the death of those two people," he said.

Months before the Crown Heights unrest, Dinkins was faced with another racially-charged incident: The boycott of Korean groceries, after a Haitian-American shopper accused Korean-American employees of assaulting her at a Flatbush store, and raised issues about the lack of Black-owned businesses in neighborhoods. The boycott lasted from January until September, spreading to a number of stores, only ending when Dinkins made a show of support for the shopkeepers by visiting a store and saying, "Whatever may have happened here in January to touch off this boycott—and there remains some dispute about what did happen—forcing these shopkeepers out of business amounts to cruel and unusual punishment."

Dinkins was born in Trenton, New Jersey, the son of a barber and a domestic servant, on October 10th, 1927. He lived in Harlem and Trenton, graduating from Trenton Central High School. After a brief time with the Marines (he was among the first Black Marine Corps members), he attended Howard University, where he met Joyce Burrows, daughter of Harlem Assemblyman Daniel Burrows. The couple married in 1953. Dinkins also attendezd Brooklyn Law School.

He became a fixture in Harlem political circles, as part of the "Gang of Four" which was made up of influential Black political players Percy Sutton, the longest-running Manhattan Borough President; Basil Paterson, the New York Secretary of State (and father of Governor David Paterson); and Rangel, who served in the House of Representatives for 46 years. Dinkins held positions across the city, including district leader, Assemblymember, and president of the Board of Elections from 1972-73, and served as City Clerk from 1975-85 and then Manhattan Borough President in 1985.

While Dinkins's four-year term saw the highest number of murders—8,340—in city history since the NYPD starting tracking murders in 1963, he increased the number of police officers on the street.

David Dinkins and Nelson Mandela, both wearing suits and standing in a room, smile at the camera

New York Mayor David Dinkins, left, and African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela meet in New York in December 1991

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New York Mayor David Dinkins, left, and African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela meet in New York in December 1991
Jim Sulley/AP/Shutterstock

Dinkins's official mayoral biography also notes, "Dinkins helped fulfill his prediction that the 'bells of freedom will ring in South Africa' by being a national voice in favor of anti-apartheid sanctions. He fought to have the city divest itself of $500 million worth of pension fund stock invested in companies that do business in South Africa and secured passage of a bill that allowed the city to rate banks on their opposition to apartheid. Among his other accomplishments were creating the office of Special Commissioner of Investigations for schools, creating a system of after hour youth centers called Beacon Schools, and working to create an all civilian police complaint review board."

In 1992, when Dinkins proposed the Civilian Complaint Review Board, thousands of police officers led by Giuliani held an ugly, drunken protest, shouting racist slurs and blocking traffic to the Brooklyn Bridge.

David Dinkins, wearing a khaki green outfit with orange bow tie and holding a cane sits in the stands with wife Joyce

David Dinkins and his wife Joyce Dinkins at the U.S. Open in 2016

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David Dinkins and his wife Joyce Dinkins at the U.S. Open in 2016
Larry Marano/Shutterstock

An avid tennis player and fan, Dinkins made an agreement with the U.S. Tennis Association to expand the National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, and keep the U.S. Open in New York for a number of years. (Giuliani objected to the deal.)

Dinkins, who was inspired to play tennis after seeing Arthur Ashe, said, "My greatest interest and concern was that people playing tennis look like this country. It has been my experience that having a seat at the table alters things."

With reporting by Brigid Bergin and Andy Mai