Sharon Pratt made history on this day in 1990 when she was elected as mayor in Washington, D.C. She was the city’s first woman to hold the seat, adding to a number of achievements in her career.
Born Sharon Pratt on January 30, 1944, the Washington native attended Howard University as an undergraduate student. She obtained her J.D. degree from Howard University Law School as well before launching a career in politics. Pratt worked in private practice and taught at the Antioch School of Law in Washington. In 1976, she became an associate general counsel for PEPCO, the company’s first woman to hold a role as vice president.
Pratt was a notable member of the Democratic National Committee and became its first woman treasurer. It was during her tenure in the DNC that Pratt announced a challenge to Washington Mayor Marion Barry at the 1988 Democratic National Convention. Her candidacy was viewed a long shot considering the popularity Barry enjoyed in the nation’s capitol, but things shifted quickly in 1990.
Barry’s drug scandal and rumors of widespread city corruption forced him to drop out of the race. Running on a “Clean House” campaign, Pratt was a refreshing voice amidst the typical cronyism that was prevalent in Washington politics. She defeated her Republican challenger, former police chief Maurice Turner, with ease and undertook the daunting task in turning around the city’s troubles.
Despite her victory, the new mayor was never fully embraced despite her tenacious media presence. She would only serve one term, and was ousted by Barry in 1995 earning the late politician the moniker “Mayor for Life.”
Pratt, who had two children with her first husband Arrington Dixon, returned to private life by beginning a consulting firm offering strategic homeland security solutions to government and commercial clients. She wed David Kelly shortly after her election as mayo but that marriage ended in 1999.
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