51 Facts About Douglas Wilder


Lawrence Douglas Wilder was born on January 17,1931 and is an American lawyer and politician who served as the 66th Governor of Virginia from 1990 to 1994.


Douglas Wilder was the first African American to serve as governor of a US state since the Reconstruction era, and the first African American ever elected as governor.


Douglas Wilder is currently a professor at the eponymous Wilder School at Virginia Commonwealth University.


Douglas Wilder established a legal practice in Richmond after graduating from the Howard University School of Law.


Douglas Wilder 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.


Douglas Wilder left the gubernatorial office in 1994, as the Virginia constitution prohibits governors from immediately seeking re-election.


Douglas Wilder briefly sought the 1992 Democratic presidential nomination, but withdrew from the race before the first primaries.

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Douglas Wilder briefly ran as an independent in the 1994 Virginia Senate election before dropping out of the race.


Douglas Wilder returned to elective office in 2005, when he became the first directly elected mayor of Richmond.


Douglas Wilder was born on January 17,1931, in the segregated Church Hill neighborhood of Richmond.


Douglas Wilder is the son of Beulah Olive and Robert Judson Wilder.


Douglas Wilder is the grandson of slaves, his paternal grandparents having been enslaved in Goochland County.


The seventh of eight brothers and sisters, Wilder was named for the African-American writers Paul Laurence Dunbar and Frederick Douglass.


Douglas Wilder's father sold insurance and his mother worked as a maid.


Douglas 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.


At the Battle of Pork Chop Hill, he and two other men found themselves cut off from their unit, but they bluffed nineteen North Korean soldiers into surrendering, for which Douglas Wilder was awarded the Bronze Star Medal.


Douglas Wilder was a sergeant when he was discharged in 1953.


Douglas Wilder had joined the Democratic Party and began his career in public office by winning a 1969 special election for the Virginia State Senate from a Richmond-area district.


Douglas Wilder was the first African American elected to the Virginia Senate since Reconstruction.


Douglas Wilder briefly flirted with an independent bid for the United States Senate in 1982.


Douglas Wilder did so after the initial favorite for the Democratic nomination, State Delegate Owen Pickett of Virginia Beach, paid homage to the Byrd Organization in announcing his bid.


Pickett not only realized that Douglas Wilder was serious, but that he would siphon off enough black votes in a three-way race to hand the seat to the Republican nominee, Congressman Paul Trible.


Pickett pulled out of the race, and Douglas Wilder abandoned plans to run for the Senate.


In 1985 Wilder was narrowly elected as the 35th Lieutenant Governor of Virginia on a Democratic ticket headed by Attorney General Gerald L Baliles, the party's candidate for governor.


Douglas Wilder was the first African American to win a statewide election in Virginia.

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Aware that he needed to reach the swath of the state's majority-white electorate, Douglas Wilder had undertaken a two-month "back roads" campaign tour of the state, visiting Virginia's predominantly rural central and western regions and enhancing his name recognition across the state.


Douglas Wilder had been candid about his pro-choice position in relation to abortion.


Douglas Wilder was elected governor on November 8,1989, defeating Republican Marshall Coleman by a spread of less than half a percent.


Douglas Wilder was sworn in on January 13,1990, by former US Supreme Court Justice Lewis F Powell, Jr.


Douglas Wilder worked to fund Virginia's transportation initiatives, effectively lobbying Congress to reallocate highway money to the states with the greatest needs.


Douglas Wilder succeeded in passing state bond issues to support improving transportation.


In May 1990 Douglas Wilder ordered state agencies and universities to divest themselves of any investments in South Africa because of its policy of apartheid, making Virginia the first Southern state to take such action.


In January 1994 Douglas Wilder commuted the sentence of Earl Washington Jr.


Douglas Wilder was fully exonerated by Governor Jim Gilmore for the capital murder and he was released from prison.


Douglas Wilder declared himself a candidate for President in 1992, but withdrew before primary season had ended.


Douglas Wilder briefly ran for the US Senate as an independent in 1994.


On May 30,2004, Douglas Wilder announced his intention to run for Mayor of Richmond.


On May 16,2008, Douglas Wilder announced that he would not seek reelection to another four-year term as mayor.


Douglas Wilder is the founder of the United States National Slavery Museum, a non-profit organization based in Fredericksburg, Virginia.


In June 2008 Douglas Wilder requested that the museum be granted tax exempt status, which was denied.


Early in 2011 Douglas Wilder was refusing to respond to or answer any questions from either news reporters or patrons who had donated artifacts.


Douglas Wilder made news in 2012 when he refused to support Barack Obama, the nation's first black president, for another term.


Douglas Wilder noted that he supported Obama in 2008, but said the president's tenure in the Oval Office thus far had been a disappointment.


Douglas Wilder did not endorse Mitt Romney, the Republican challenger, and later said that he hoped for an Obama victory despite having gone to a Romney fundraiser.


In 2015, Douglas Wilder published an autobiography, Son of Virginia: A Life in America's Political Arena.

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In March 2018, Douglas Wilder filed suit against John Accordino, who was serving as the Dean of his namesake college, for harassing Douglas Wilder's assistant.


In July 2019, the university's independent investigator concluded that Douglas Wilder did kiss the student without her consent.


Douglas Wilder claimed the investigator ignored contradictory evidence, including his claim that Black called him eight times after the night during which he supposedly kissed her, something she presumably would not have done if she felt harassed or threatened.


On October 24,2019, Douglas Wilder announced that the university's internal review panel had cleared him of wrongdoing.


In 2020, Douglas Wilder raised concerns that the state archives at the Library of Virginia had failed to provide access to the records of his gubernatorial administration.


In 2021, following the gubernatorial election of Republican Glenn Youngkin, Douglas Wilder joined Governor Youngkin's transition team, alongside former Republican governors Jim Gilmore, Bob McDonnell, and George Allen.