Monday, December 8, 2014

L. Douglas Wilder-1st African American Governor of Virginia

Lawrence Douglas Wilder is an American politician, who served as the 1st African American to be elected as governor of Virginia and 1st African-American governor of any state since Reconstruction. Wilder served as the 66th Governor of Virginia from 1990 to 1994. When earlier elected as Lieutenant Governor, he was the 1st African American elected to statewide office in Virginia. His most recent political office was Mayor of Richmond, Virginia, which he held from 2005 to 2009.     L. Douglas Wilder was born in the segregated Church Hill neighborhood of Richmond. Wilder was named for the African American writers Paul Laurence Dunbar and Frederick Douglass. Wilder worked his way through Virginia Union University by waiting tables at hotels and shining shoes, graduating in 1951 with a degree in chemistry. 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 19 Chinese soldiers into surrendering, for which Wilder was awarded the Bronze Star Medal. In 1956 he entered Howard University Law School. After graduating in 1959 he established a law practice in Richmond. Wilder began his career in public office by winning a 1969 special election for the Virginia State Senate from a Richmond-area district. He was the 1st African American elected to the Virginia Senate since Reconstruction. In 1985 Wilder was elected the 35th Lieutenant Governor of Virginia on a Democratic ticket under then-Attorney General Gerald L. Baliles. Wilder was elected governor on November 8, 1989, defeating Republican Marshall Coleman.  In recognition of his landmark achievement as the 1st African American elected governor in the nation, the NAACP awarded Wilder the Spingarn Medal for 1990. In May 1990 Wilder ordered state agencies and universities to divest themselves of any investments in South Africa because of its then policy of apartheid. On November 2, 2004, Wilder received 79% of the vote (55,319 votes) to become the 1st directly elected Mayor of Richmond in sixty years. Douglas Wilder is the founder of the United States National Slavery Museum, a non-profit organization based in Fredericksburg, Virginia.                                                                       

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