Black Governors, David Paterson, and Slick Rick the Ruler

14 03 2008

Once David Paterson is sworn he will officially become New York’s first and the nation’s 4th African American governor ever.

But the nation’s first African American governor was Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback, who according to Wikipedia, was born to black mother who was enslaved and father was a Southern white plater. He served as a captain in the Union Army during the civil war. And, interestingly enough, “in 1872, the incumbent Republican governor Henry Clay Warmoth, was impeached and convicted, removing him from office,” which paved the way for Pinchback to assume the governorship of Louisana. That’s right a slave holding deep south state had a black governor way back in the 19th Century even if it was for only governor for 43 days.

Nearly 125 years later, Lawrence Douglas Wilder, became the first elected black governor ever in U.S. history. And, remarkably, it occurred in the former confederacy, namely the Commonwealth of Virginia. A son of the South, Wilder attended segregated schools as a youngster. He fought in the Korean War, and on the account of the G.I. bill, attended Howard Law School. Soon afterwards he pursued a career in politics and ascended to become Lieutenant Governor of Virginia before running for governor in 1994. But something funny happened on his way to victory.

Most polling had Wilder ahead by comfortable margins, yet the final tally turned out to be much closer than expected. Political scientists, election experts and other of ornaments of the chattering classes now dubbed this phenomenon the “Wilder effect.” In sum, this occurs when white folks in a poll overstate their support for a black candidate to avoid sounding prejudiced, but then decide to vote for a white candidate in the privacy of the voting booth. This phenomenon has also been called the “Bradley effect.”

Doug Wilder was succeeded by George Allen of “macaca” fame.

In 2006, Deval Patrick became the third black governor in U.S. History. Patrick was born in South Side, Chicago, but attended secondary school in Massachusetts and earned a law degree from Harvard University. In 1994, Patrick became Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in the Clinton administration. After another stint as an attorney in the private practice, Patrick won 56 percent of the vote in the Bay State by running a successful campaign on promising change and a new kind of politics for Massachusetts.

Hmm…that sounds familiar.

And now we have Governor David Paterson, a veteran of the New York state legislature who has represented Harlem since 1985. Most of the biographical and background information on now New York consists of the usual summary of achievements and pedigrees such as his undergrad at Columbia University, and law school at Hofstra.

His current biography boasts of being the first person of color to assume a “legislative leadership position in New York’s history,” including being the first African-American elected as lieutenant governor of New York. Some of his legislative accomplishments include proposing legislation for a $1 billion voter-approved stem cell research initiative, “demanding a statewide alternative energy strategy, insisting on strong action to fight against domestic violence, and serving as the primary champion for minority- and women-owned businesses in New York.” Perhaps its not exactly the shock the world kind of resume some people are looking for, but it’ll do for now.

But to many hip hop fans, David Patterson greatest achievement was testifying in court on behalf of hip hop pioneer emcee Ricky Martin Lloyd Walters, aka Slick Rick. In 1990, while the hip hop world fell in love with his mellow tone and captivating story telling, Slick Rick the Ruler claimed to fear for his life. Sadly, he got involved in a gun fight injuring two people. Since Walters, a Briton born to Jamaican parents, was not a citizenship, the now defunct Immigration and Naturalization Services wanted to kick him out of the country after he served his time. At the urging of Russell Simmons, David Paterson intervened.

According to the Village Voice:

His lawyers presented a pack of fans and supporters to argue that it was important for the country that Walters stay put.

David Paterson, a New York state senator, appeared at the trial to testify about how Walters was working to “better the lives of our children” by warning them against taking the law into their own hands. Russell Simmons wrote on Walters’ behalf: “He’s a deeply serious artist and I know that he’ll devote himself fulltime to his art as soon as he is allowed to return to it.”

To some this may seem trival, but to those of us who grew up on “Children’s Story,” “Lodi Dodi,” and “Mona Lisa,” that is huge.

Watch Slick Rick’s morality tale below.

5/23 Update: Gov. Paterson has officially pardoned Slick Rick.

From the press release:

Governor David A. Paterson announced today that he has granted Ricky Walters a full and unconditional pardon of his 1991 attempted murder and weapon convictions, in order to allow Walters to seek relief from deportation from the federal immigration courts. Mr. Walters, who was born in the United Kingdom, was lawfully admitted to the United States at age 11, and he was raised in the Bronx. At the time of his crimes, Mr. Walters was a newly-famous hip-hop artist known as “Slick Rick,” who has since been credited with being a pioneer in the development of hip-hop as a mainstream musical genre. Walters was incarcerated for six years, and was released from prison in 1997.

Read the press release in its entirety here.

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2 responses

23 05 2008
Ruby

I’ll bet Slick Rick knows who sold David Paterson his crack. PATERSON HAS ADMITTED DRUG USE!!

Wow, Slick OWNS the blind governor now!!!! I expect we gonna be seeing a whole lotta them pardons!!!

24 05 2008
KUT

From what I understand, Gov. Patterson has admitted to cocaine and marijuana use while in his 20’s. Crack is derivative of cocaine, but they are not the same thing.

More importantly, all of that took place more than 30 years ago.

Additionally, its not exactly unusual for someone of his era to have used drugs, especially in New York city. To me, its something that he overcame.

Not unlike President Bush overcoming his alcohol addiction, though admitting to use is not the same as confessing to dependency.

I am also not sure how receiving a pardon means you own a governor. You may disagree with it, but suggesting that Slick Rick owns the governor of New York because he received a pardon is a rather specious claim.

Plus, I doubt the British rapper is much of a campaign contributor or able to influence the governor directly in any real way.

Nor does it make much sense to suggest we should expect more pardons in the future. For all we know he could grant far fewer pardons in the future. And even if he did they may be well deserved.

And why is it that you insist on calling him the “blind governor” instead of just Gov. Paterson? I suppose no matter what a person with a disability accomplishes he is still define by their physical or unseen shortcomings more than what he actually achieves.

Score one for tolerance.

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