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Thu, 05.20.1954

David Paterson, Politician born

David A. Paterson

*David Paterson was born on this date in 1954. He is a Black politician.  David Alexander Paterson was born in Brooklyn, NY, to Portia and Basil Paterson.

His father was a New York state senator, secretary of state, and deputy mayor of New York City. Paterson traces his mother’s roots of the family to the American colonial era in the states of North and South Carolina.  His father was half Jamaican. His paternal grandmother, Evangeline Rondon Paterson, was secretary to Black Nationalist leader Marcus Garvey. His paternal grandfather was Leonard James Paterson, a native of St. George's, Grenada, who arrived in the United States aboard the S.S. Vestris on May 16, 1917. His father's side consists of white ancestors from England, Ireland, and Scotland.  In contrast, his mother's side includes eastern European Jewish ancestry and the Guinea-Bissau region of West Africa.

At the age of three months, Paterson contracted an ear infection that spread to his optic nerve, leaving him with no sight in his left eye and severely limited vision in his right. New York City public schools would not guarantee an education without placing him in special education classes. Thus, his family bought a home in the Long Island suburb of Hempstead so that he could attend mainstream classes there. The first disabled student in the Hempstead public schools, he graduated from Hempstead High School in 1971. Paterson received a BA in history from Columbia University in 1977 and a law degree from Hofstra Law School in 1983.

After law school, he worked for the Queens District Attorney's Office but could not complete the New York bar examination, so he did not become an attorney at law. He attributed his failing the New York bar to insufficient accommodation for his visual impairment and has since advocated for changes in bar exam procedures.

After graduating from law school, Paterson worked in the District Attorney's office of Queens County, New York, and on the staff of Manhattan Borough President David Dinkins. In 1985, he was elected to the New York State Senate (a seat once held by his father). In 2003, he rose to the position of Senate Minority Leader. Paterson was selected as running mate by then New York Attorney General and Democratic Party nominee Eliot Spitzer in the 2006 New York gubernatorial election. They were elected in November 2006 with 69 percent of the vote, and Paterson took office as Lieutenant Governor on January 1, 2007. After Spitzer resigned in the wake of a prostitution scandal, Paterson was sworn in as governor of New York on March 17, 2008.

Paterson was the first Black Governor of New York and the fourth in any U.S. state (following Reconstruction-era Louisiana Gov. P. B. S. Pinchback, former Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder, and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick) and also the first legally blind governor of any U.S. State. On July 17, 2008, Paterson was the keynote speaker at the 99th annual convention of the NAACP in Cincinnati, Ohio. Other speakers included former Congressman Charles Rangel and U.S. Presidential candidate John McCain. In October 2008, Paterson announced his intentions to run for a full term as Governor and launched a campaign for a full term in the 2010 gubernatorial election, but announced in 2010 that he would bow out of the race.

During the final year of his administration, Paterson faced allegations of witness tampering, soliciting improper gifts, and making false statements; he was eventually fined for having lied under oath. Since leaving office, Paterson has been a radio talk show host and served as chairman of the New York Democratic Party from May 2014 to November 2015.

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Image: David Shankbone

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