Douglas Wilder

Douglas Wilder
Douglas Wilder 2003 NIH.jpg
78th Mayor of Richmond
In office
January 2, 2005 – January 1, 2009
Preceded byRudy McCollum
Succeeded byDwight Jones
66th Governor of Virginia
In office
January 13, 1990 – January 15, 1994
LieutenantDon Beyer
Preceded byGerald Baliles
Succeeded byGeorge Allen
35th Lieutenant Governor of Virginia
In office
January 18, 1986 – January 12, 1990
GovernorGerald Baliles
Preceded byRichard Davis
Succeeded byDon Beyer
Member of the Virginia Senate
from the 9th district
In office
January 12, 1972 – January 1, 1986
Preceded byM. Patton Echols
Succeeded byBenjamin Lambert
Member of the Virginia Senate
from the 30th district
In office
January 14, 1970 – January 12, 1972
Preceded byJ. Sargeant Reynolds
Succeeded byLeroy S. Bendheim
Personal details
BornLawrence Douglas Wilder
(1931-01-17) January 17, 1931 (age 87)
Richmond, Virginia, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Other political
affiliations
Independent (1994)
Spouse(s)Eunice Montgomery (m. 1958; div. 1978)
EducationVirginia Union University (BSc)
Howard University (LLB)
Signature
Military service
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service1951–1953
RankSergeant
Battles/warsKorean War
AwardsBronze Star Medal ribbon.svg Bronze Star

Lawrence Douglas Wilder (born January 17, 1931) is an American lawyer and politician who served as the 66th Governor of Virginia, from 1990 to 1994. He was the first African American to serve as governor of a U.S. state since Reconstruction, and the first elected African-American governor.[1]

Born in Richmond, Virginia, Wilder graduated from Virginia Union University and served in the United States Army during the Korean War. He established a legal practice in Richmond after graduating from the Howard University School of Law. A member of the Democratic Party, Wilder won election to the Virginia Senate in 1969. He remained in that chamber until 1986, when he took office as the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, becoming the first African American to hold statewide office in Virginia. In the 1989 Virginia gubernatorial election, Wilder narrowly defeated Republican Marshall Coleman.

Wilder left the gubernatorial office in 1994, as the Virginia constitution prohibited governors from seeking re-election. He briefly sought the 1992 Democratic presidential nomination, but withdrew from the race before the first primaries. He also briefly ran as an independent in the 1994 Virginia Senate election before dropping out of the race. Wilder returned to elective office in 2005, when he became the first directly-elected Mayor of Richmond. After leaving office in 2009, he worked as an adjunct professor and founded the United States National Slavery Museum.

Early life

Wilder was born on January 17, 1931, in the segregated Church Hill neighborhood of Richmond.[2] He is the son of Beulah Olive (Richards) and Robert Judson Wilder.[3] He is the grandson of slaves, his paternal grandparents having been enslaved in Goochland County.[4] The seventh of eight brothers and sisters, Wilder was named for the African American writers Paul Laurence Dunbar and Frederick Douglass.[5]

Wilder’s father sold insurance and his mother worked as a maid. While the family was never completely destitute, Wilder recalled his early years during the Great Depression as a childhood of "gentle poverty."[6]

Wilder worked his way through Virginia Union University, a historically black university, by waiting tables at hotels and shining shoes, graduating in 1951 with a degree in chemistry.[7]

Drafted into the United States Army during the Korean War, he volunteered for combat duty. At the Battle of Pork Chop Hill, he and two other men found themselves cut off from their unit, but they bluffed nineteen Chinese soldiers into surrendering, for which Wilder was awarded the Bronze Star Medal. He was a sergeant when he was discharged in 1953.[8]

Following the war, Wilder worked in the state medical examiner's office and pursued a master's degree in chemistry. In 1956 he changed his career plans and entered Howard University Law School. After graduating in 1959, he established a law practice in Richmond, the Virginia capital.[9]

Wilder married Eunice Montgomery in 1958. The couple had three children before divorcing in 1978: Lynn Diana; Lawrence Douglas Jr.; and Loren Deane.[10]

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