When NY1 debuted in 1992, H. Carl McCall was among the first wave of leaders to appear on our air.
After a string of political appointments and elected positions during the early 90s, McCall returned to his roots, taking the helm of what was then the Board of Education.
“We’ve had serious problems and as you know – serious breakdowns in the board,” said McCall in 1993 on NY1. “The board is now, I believe, dysfunctional.”
The city’s Board of Education disbanded in 2002. Now, the Department of Education is run by the mayor and at 83-years-old, McCall, a former teacher, says he’s still deeply concerned about the lack of diversity at the city’s best public high schools.
“You and I know that there are more than seven or eight talented African American kids who could go to Stuyvesant or somewhere else and excel,” McCall said recently during an interview in the NY1 offices.
After 50 years, McCall is retiring from public life.
His name is also forever etched in New York’s history as the first African American elected to statewide office.
As a Democrat, McCall was immersed in the rough and tumble world of New York politics, one of the few African Americans in the game. And he wasn’t afraid to play hardball with his opponents when he had to.
But despite the mudslinging, McCall, an ordained minister, took the high road and in 1994 and won his biggest victory.
“In this historic election, we learned that the people of New York believe in – or want somebody there – who still believe in hope, not hate,” McCall said in his victory speech. “Who believe in harmony, not hostility, they want someone who will be committed to healing, not to hurt.”
Born in Massachusetts, McCall never forgot his humble beginnings.
"As a child, my family received a welfare check, but today I sign every check issued by the state of New York,” McCall once said when he held the office of state comptroller.
“I started with nothing. I was raised by my mother. She raised me and five sisters by herself. But she told us the most important thing we could do was to get a good education,” McCall said. “So that’s what drove my career. I’ve had my ups and downs, but I knew I was on a mission to do something really important. That’s why I think I had a wonderful career.”