This Day in Black History: May 20, 1954

David Paterson

This Day in Black History: May 20, 1954

David A. Paterson, the first African-American governor of New York, was born on May 20, 1954.

Published May 20, 2013

David A. Paterson was not only the first African-American governor of New York, he was also the first legally blind chief executive of the Empire State and the second of any state. Paterson was born in Brooklyn on May 20, 1954, and contracted an infection that left him with no sight in his left eye and limited vision in the other.

Still, Paterson was able to earn a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University and a degree from Hofstra Law School. After law school, Paterson worked for the Queens District Attorney’s office and won a special election to the State Senate in 1985 representing Harlem. He was elected minority leader in 2002 and the highest ranking Black elected official in New York State history.

Paterson's family is steeped in political history. His father, Basil A. Paterson, was the first African-American Secretary of State in New York and the first African-American vice-chairman of the National Democratic Party. His paternal grandmother also worked for a brief time in the political arena: She was a secretary to civil rights activist Marcus Garvey.

In 2006, Paterson was elected lieutenant governor and became governor upon the resignation of Eliot Spitzer in 2008. He served in that capacity until 2010. He now works as a radio talk show host and as a professor.

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  (Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

Written by Jonathan P. Hicks


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