Just before 2 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 3, history was made as Kim Berkeley Clark, the first African American President Judge of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, administered the oath of office to Edward Gainey, the first African American to serve as mayor of the City of Pittsburgh in an understated ceremony in Pittsburgh City Council Chambers.

“At 65 years of age, I did not think that I would experience this,” Clark said, her voice cracking with emotion. 

“I am so thrilled. I am so overwhelmed by the magnitude of what is happening here in the city of Pittsburgh today; the hope that it is bringing for many people who look like me. I am thrilled and I am very proud, and honored to be a part of this day.”

Gainey’s inauguration was sparsely attended, held in council chambers, because of the recent increase in Covid cases locally. 

A performance by Sankofa Village for the Arts drummers and dancers, a poem read by Vanessa German of Homewood, the singing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by the Mount Ararat Baptist Church Choir from Larimer, and even comments from Gov. Tom Wolf were all shown on large television monitors in council chambers as the inauguration was streamed for those who wanted to watch but could not attend.

Three of the city’s former mayors — Bill Peduto, Luke Ravenstahl and Tom Murphy – attended the event in person.

Pittsburgh’s recent mayors gathered for the historic swearing-in of Ed Gainey as mayor. L-R: Bill Peduto, Tom Murphy, Ed Gainey and Luke Ravenstahl. Photo by Ann Belser.

In his inaugural address, Gainey touched on the themes of his campaign such as investing in transportation, housing, infrastructure and education for the next generations.

“While Pittsburgh is a leader in many areas including health care, technology and our university system — under my administration, we will work to ensure that Pittsburgh is also a leader in community and police relations, economic inclusion, affordability, transportation access, and that we partner with our schools to create a world-class education system that benefits everyone,” Gainey said in remarks that lasted just 11 minutes.

While acknowledging that he is the first Black mayor in the city’s history, he said, “I didn’t run to make history, I ran to make change. But I would be remiss if I did not reflect on the historical significance of today. 

“Being the first Black mayor to hold this seat is not a responsibility that I take lightly. I stand on the shoulders of greats such as Harvey Adams, Alma Speed Fox, Marcella Lee, Nate Smith, Byrd Brown, Dock Fielder, Bubby Hairston and the ward chair who we lost last year, Chuck Frazier.”