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This Day In History: January 30th
Lawyer and politician Sharon Pratt gained national attention when she won the 1990 mayoral election in Washington, D.C. Although she initially wanted to pursue a different career path, Pratt found her passion in public service.
Sharon Pratt was born on January 30, 1944, in the nation’s capital. Her father was a Washington, D.C., Superior Court Judge who was instrumental in her upbringing and career choice. After graduating from high school with honors, Pratt attended Howard University and received a degree in Political Science. She then enrolled in Howard University’s School of Law.
While in law school, she met her first husband, Arlington Dixon, and the couple had two children together. During this time, Pratt also completed her law degree and worked in private practice as an associate at her father’s law firm. She focused on children’s rights and was recognized as a leader in the emerging area of family rights law. Pratt also took her talents to the classroom and became a professor at the Antioch School of Law.
Pratt worked her way to becoming a Vice President at Potomac Electric Power Company. She was the first woman and African-American to hold this position. Pratt was elected as the Democratic National Committeewoman and later served as the Democratic National Committee Eastern Regional Chairwoman and Committee Treasurer. Dixon was the first woman to hold the Committee Treasurer position. Throughout her work, Pratt developed new programs and created employment opportunities for low-income D.C. residents and senior citizens.
In 1982, she directed an unsuccessful mayoral campaign for Patricia Roberts Harris. Despite the failed campaign, Pratt announced that she would challenge former Mayor Marion Barry in the 1990 mayoral election. She won her first bid for public office and was elected mayor. While in office, Pratt led efforts to increase African-American and Hispanic business ownership. She also sought to achieve statehood status for the District of Columbia but was unable to do so.
Pratt found herself running against Marion Barry again in 1994, but this time she lost the election. Barry made an unprecedented political comeback and defeated Pratt. Although she did not win re-election, she remained dedicated to public service and will always be remembered as the first African-American woman mayor of Washington, D.C.