(CNN) -- With New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's resignation, Lt. Gov. David Paterson will become the first African-American governor of the state and the fourth in U.S. history.
David A. Paterson at the 2004 Pride Awards ceremony in June 2004.
Paterson, 53, is legally blind, and although documentation is scarce, it is widely believed that he will be the nation's first blind governor.
Paterson was first elected to the New York State Senate in 1985, where he represented the 30th District, encompassing Harlem, East Harlem and the Upper West Side.
In November 2002, Paterson was elected New York Senate minority leader. He is the highest-ranking African-American elected official in New York state and is the first nonwhite legislative leader in Albany's history. He addressed the 2004 Democratic National Convention, as well as the U.S. Conference of Mayors that same year.
Paterson was elected New York's first African-American lieutenant governor on November 7, 2006, on a ticket headed by Spitzer. As lieutenant governor, Paterson led the administration's charge in several areas, including stem cell research, alternative energy, domestic violence and the role of minority- and female-owned businesses.
Paterson earned state and national attention for getting a 283-year-old burial ground of Colonial-era African-Americans in lower Manhattan designated a national historic landmark.
Paterson is a leading advocate for the visually and physically impaired. His 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention marked the first time a visually impaired person addressed the convention. He is a member of the American Foundation for the Blind, serves as a member of the Democratic National Committee and is a board member of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.
According to the National Governors' Association, previous African-American governors were P.B.S. Pinchback, who served as acting governor of Louisiana for 36 days in 1872-73 while the sitting governor was being impeached; L. Douglas Wilder of Virginia, who became the nation's first elected black governor in 1990; and Deval Patrick, the current governor of Massachusetts.
Paterson's father, Basil, was the first nonwhite secretary of state of New York and the first African-American vice chairman of the national Democratic Party. He lost a race for lieutenant governor in 1970 and was deputy mayor of New York City under Mayor Ed Koch, according to The New York Times.
David Paterson earned his bachelor's degree in history from Columbia University and got his law degree from Hofstra Law School in 1982.
He lives in Harlem with his wife, Michelle Paige Paterson, and their two children, Ashley and Alex. E-mail to a friend