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Sun, 01.30.1944

Sharon Pratt born

Sharon Pratt

*Sharon Pratt was born on this date in 1944.  She is a Black lawyer, politician and administrator.  From Washington D.C., she was born to D.C. Superior Court judge Carlisle Edward Pratt and Mildred "Peggy" (Petticord) Pratt. Three years later, a sister, Benaree, was born. After she lost her mother to breast cancer at an early age, her grandmother, Hazel Pratt, and aunt, Aimee Elizabeth Pratt also helped raise the girls.  

Pratt attended D.C. Public Schools Gage ES, Rudolph ES, MacFarland Junior High School, and Roosevelt.  She excelled at baseball but deemphasized that in adolescence. At Howard University she joined the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority (1964) and earned a B.A. in political science (1965). She received a J.D. degree from the Howard University School of Law in 1968. She met and dated her future husband there.  She married Arrington Dixon in 1966 and has two daughters, Aimee and Drew, born in 1968 and 1970. They divorced after sixteen years. Former Def Jam A&R executive Drew Dixon is her daughter.  

Initially her political energies were drawn to national rather than local politics. She was a member of the Democratic National Committee from the District of Columbia (1977–1990), the first woman to hold that position. She was DNC Treasurer (1985–1989).  At the 1980 Democratic National Convention, she was a member of the Ad Hoc Credentials Committee, member of the Judicial Council, and co-chairman of the Rules Committee.  In 1983, she became Vice President of Community Relations at Pepco, the D.C. electric utility. She became the first woman and first Black to serve in that role. The same year, she won the Presidential Award from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Upset with the decline of her hometown, Pratt announced at the 1988 Democratic National Convention that she would challenge incumbent mayor Marion Barry in the 1990 election. Pratt was the only candidate to have officially announced her plans to run for mayor when Barry was arrested on drug charges and dropped out of the race in early 1990. Shortly thereafter, the race was joined by longtime council members John Ray, Charlene Drew Jarvis and David Clarke. Pratt criticized her three main opponents, referring to them as the "three blind mice" who "saw nothing, said nothing and did nothing as the city rapidly decayed." She was the only candidate who called on Barry to resign from office and ran specifically as an outsider to his political machine.  However, even with the smallest campaign staff and least money, Pratt won the election, defeating second-place Ray by 10%. As Washington is a heavily Democratic city, her victory over Republican former police chief Maurice T. Turner, Jr., in the November 6 general election was a foregone conclusion.

She was sworn in as mayor of Washington on January 2, 1991.  Pratt was the first Black woman to serve as mayor of a major American city.  Once in office, Pratt's grassroots, reform posture met resistance. She made good on her promises to clean house, requesting the resignations of all Barry appointees the day after her election; however, as she began to slash the city employment payroll, her political support began to weaken. She angered labor leaders who claimed she had promised not to fire union employees and began mandating unpaid furloughs and wage freezes citywide. Kelly was at odds with several D.C. Council members with her proposal to temporarily move the city government to the building at One Judiciary Square, ten blocks away from Washington's incumbent city hall, the District Building, while the latter underwent renovations.  

According to the Washington City Paper, Kelly "was never able to get control of a city government still loyal to Barry, and she often mistrusted the advice she got from aides."  In the spring of 1992, just over a year into her term, Barry loyalists mounted a recall campaign, which, although unsuccessful, weakened her administration and forced her to tread more carefully with the public, backing away from her reform efforts.  She faced some racial opposition because she is a light-skinned Black, often cited as a hallmark of elite Blacks in the District, thus distancing her from poor and working-class Blacks in the city.  Though she campaigned and was elected and inaugurated mayor as Sharon Pratt Dixon, on December 7, 1991, she married James R. Kelly III, a New York businessman, and changed her name to Sharon Pratt Kelly. After their 1999 divorce, she resumed her maiden name, Sharon Pratt. 

In 2003, Pratt was awarded a $235,000 contract from the District of Columbia's Department of Health to be the city's main contact with federal homeland security agencies. The contract also calls for her to investigate improved communications and technology to protect the district from bioterrorism. Pratt was required to meet with senior federal officials and write a report on potential opportunities, especially resource-sharing agreements. She was also required to look for additional funding sources. Pratt's firm, Pratt Consulting, does management consulting and works with federal, state, and local agencies and non-profit groups. 

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