This Day in Black History: July 31, 1956

Gov. Deval Patrick, the first African-American governor of Massachusetts, was born on July 31, 1956, on the South Side of Chicago.

Raised by a single mother, a young Patrick earned a scholarship in eighth grade from the Boston-based organization A Better Chance, enabling him to attend the prestigious Milton Academy in Massachusetts. The first in his family to attend college, he received a Bachelor of Arts in English and American Literature from Harvard College and and his Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School.

Patrick soon developed a stellar career, clerking for a federal judge, practicing law with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, working as an attorney in the private sector and becoming partner at age 34. As a business executive, he ultimately rose to senior positions at Coca-Cola and Texaco. In 1994, President Bill Clinton appointed Patrick to the nation’s top civil rights post, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, where he tackled issues like racial profiling and police misconduct.

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Patrick announced his candidacy for governor of Massachusetts in 2005. Despite a very heated gubernatorial campaign which included family slandering, he emerged victorious with 55 percent of the vote in the general election. The politician was reelected in 2010, winning the general election with 48 percent of the vote.

During his time in office, Patrick increased funding to education and life sciences, increased state sales tax from 5 percent to 6.25 percent, expanded affordable health care insurance to a majority of Massachusetts residents and established the country’s first offshore wind farm. In 2015, he left office after two terms.

In 2019, he briefly ran for the Democratic nomination for president. He announced his run on November 14 and suspended his campaign on February 12, 2020.

 (Photo by Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

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