l. douglas wilder:
continuing 30 years of History, then & now
anuary 13, 2020 marked the 30th Anniversary of the inauguration of L. Douglas Wilder, 66th Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia and namesake of the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs. A native of Richmond's historic Church Hill, Wilder served as the commonwealth's chief executive officer from 1990 to 1994, and is the first African American to serve as governor of a U.S. state since Reconstruction, and the first elected African-American governor. Wilder graduated from Virginia Union University and served in the United States Army during the Korean War, where he earned a Bronze Star for heroism in ground combat. After the war, he attended Howard University School of Law, establishing a legal practice in Richmond shortly thereafter.
Wilder won election to the Virginia Senate in 1969 as a member of the Democratic Party and served five terms before taking office as the lieutenant governor of Virginia, becoming the first African American to hold statewide office in the commonwealth. Wilder’s historic success in the 1989 Virginia gubernatorial election made him a major and immediate influence in the U.S. political arena. He was commended for his sound fiscal management and balancing the state budget during difficult economic times. For the first time in the state's history, and for two consecutive years under Wilder’s administration, Virginia was ranked as the best-managed state in the U.S. by Financial World magazine.
Wilder returned to elective office in 2005, when he became the first directly-elected mayor of Richmond in over a half century, winning every precinct. Since leaving office in 2009, he has worked as a distinguished professor at the Wilder School where he lectures and hosts symposia, including the most recent, "Race in Academia." He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the NAACP’s prestigious Spingarn Medal, awarded 34 honorary degrees and citations of the highest order, e.g. Veterans of Foreign Wars, life member of several government and public service organizations, the author of “Son of Virginia: A Life in America’s Political Arena,” and a widely sought after spokesperson on current issues - national, state, and local.