10 Things You Didn't Know About David Paterson

In 2006, David Paterson was elected New York's first African-American lieutenant governor.

By + More

1. David Alexander Paterson was born on May 20, 1954, in Brooklyn, N.Y., to labor law attorney Basil Paterson and his wife, Portia. His father was the second black politician nominated for statewide office in New York and served as a state senator. The first of two sons, David was legally blind from birth, with only partial sight in his right eye.

2. When their son was denied the opportunity to attend classes with sighted students in his hometown, Paterson's family moved to Hempstead, N.Y., so that he could participate in a mainstream classroom. An excellent student, Paterson graduated from high school in three years.

3. He attended Columbia University, receiving a bachelor's degree in history in 1977. He worked at various jobs for a few years and then earned a law degree from Hofstra Law School in 1983.

4. In 1985, Paterson was elected to the New York State Senate, representing the 30th State Senate District, which encompasses Harlem, East Harlem, and the Upper West Side neighborhoods of Manhattan. It is the same district his father had represented.

5. Paterson gained national attention in the 1990s because of his efforts to preserve an African-American burial ground that was discovered at the excavation site for construction of a new federal building in New York City. He worked to secure federal funding for the project and said in 1997 that "through the discovery of the African-American Burial Grounds, our history has at last come to the surface for all of us to know and respect."

6. In 2002, David Paterson was elected Democratic leader of the New York State Senate, the first nonwhite legislative leader in New York's history.

7. In 2004, he became the first visually impaired person to address a Democratic National Convention and, in 2006, he was elected New York's first African-American lieutenant governor.

8. David Paterson lives in Harlem with his wife, Michelle, and their two children, Ashley and Alex.

9. Paterson is a board member of the Achilles Track Club, an international track club for athletes with disabilities. He completed the New York City Marathon in 1999. He is also on the President's Council of the American Foundation for the Blind.

10. When asked by the New York Amsterdam News about life lessons he had learned, Paterson replied, "You never get to any level of leadership where your race is not a factor." He continued, "You don't want to be the first; you want to be the first of many."

Sources
New York Times
Cotemporary Black Biography
Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness
New York State Lieutenant Governor website
Achilles Track Club
New York Amsterdam News