On December 30th, 2023, the world of academia and public service was profoundly impacted by the death of Dr. John Louis Flateau. His sudden passing marked the end of an era, especially in New York, where he was celebrated as a pioneer in voting rights, a distinguished professor, and an influential political strategist.
Dr. Flateau’s journey in education and public service was characterized by a lifelong commitment to learning. He completed his undergraduate studies at New York University and went on to earn both his MA and Ph.D. from the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center. His academic achievements laid a solid foundation for a multifaceted career that spanned the realms of academia, government, and politics.
In his role at CUNY’s Medgar Evers College, Dr. Flateau transcended the traditional boundaries of a professor. As a mentor and leader, he chaired the Public Administration department and directed the Dubois Bunche Center for Public Policy. He also served as the dean of the college’s School of Business and Office of External Relations. His dedication to teaching and leadership earned him the respect and admiration of both colleagues and students.
One of Dr. Flateau’s most significant legal contributions was as the lead plaintiff in the landmark 1982 federal court case, Flateau v. Anderson. This pivotal case challenged the delay in redistricting New York’s state legislature following the 1980 Census. His efforts were instrumental in ensuring the timely redrawing of both the state’s congressional and state legislative district lines in 1982, marking a major victory for voting rights.
Throughout his illustrious career, Dr. Flateau remained a respected authority on census and redistricting issues. He was a key figure in the New York City Districting Commission and later served on New York State’s Independent Redistricting Commission. His commitment to fair representation and voting rights was unwavering and left a lasting impact on the political landscape.
In addition to his academic pursuits, Dr. Flateau held various influential government positions, showcasing his versatility and expertise. He served on the New York City Board of Elections, was the state Senate Deputy Secretary for Intergovernmental Relations, and held roles such as Chief of Staff to Mayor David N. Dinkins. His tenure as Senior Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer for Empire State Development further highlighted his diverse skill set.
Known for his advocacy for the underrepresented, Dr. Flateau made significant contributions to the Brooklyn and New York communities. His commitment to these causes was evident in his efforts to uplift and empower through education and political engagement. He was a beloved figure in the community, known for his passion for social justice and his dedication to empowering future leaders.
Survived by his wife Lorraine and sons Marcus and Jonathan, Dr. Flateau’s family, along with his colleagues and the many lives he touched, deeply mourn his loss. Medgar Evers College President Patricia Ramsey reflected on his profound impact, noting that the college family was better because of his worldly perspective.
His legacy as a leader, mentor, and dedicated public servant will continue to inspire countless individuals. Dr. Flateau’s contributions to public policy, voting rights, and community advocacy have left a lasting imprint, ensuring his influence will resonate for generations.
In addition to his professional achievements, Dr. Flateau’s involvement in community activism and local politics was a source of inspiration in Brooklyn. His work transcended policy and strategy, focusing on making a tangible difference in people’s lives.
As the community and his family prepare to bid farewell, Dr. Flateau’s life’s work stands as a beacon of hope and a testament to the power of dedicated public service. His legacy continues to guide and inspire those committed to making a positive impact in the world.