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Thu, 05.20.1954

David Paterson a visionary New Yorker

David A. Paterson

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

His father was a New York state senator and 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 Carolina and South Carolina. His father is 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, while his mother's side includes eastern European Jewish ancestry as well as the Guinea-Bissau region of West Africa.

At the age of three months, Paterson contracted an ear infection which 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 him 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 went to work for the Queens District Attorney's Office, but was unable to complete the New York bar examination, and so 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 that was 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 is 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 current 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 addressing at the 99th annual convention of the NAACP in Cincinnati, Ohio. Other speakers included 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 website.

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