Douglas Wilder

Last updated

Douglas Wilder
Wilder1.image.jpg
78th Mayor of Richmond
In office
January 2, 2005 January 1, 2009
Preceded by Rudy McCollum
Succeeded by Dwight Jones
66th Governor of Virginia
In office
January 13, 1990 January 15, 1994
Lieutenant Don Beyer
Preceded by Gerald Baliles
Succeeded by George Allen
35th Lieutenant Governor of Virginia
In office
January 18, 1986 January 13, 1990
GovernorGerald Baliles
Preceded by Richard Davis
Succeeded byDon Beyer
Member of the Virginia Senate
from the 9th district
In office
January 12, 1972 January 1, 1986
Preceded by M. Patton Echols
Succeeded by Benjamin Lambert
Member of the Virginia Senate
from the 30th district
In office
January 14, 1970 January 12, 1972
Preceded by J. Sargeant Reynolds
Succeeded by Leroy S. Bendheim
Personal details
Born
Lawrence Douglas Wilder

(1931-01-17) January 17, 1931 (age 89)
Richmond, Virginia, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Other political
affiliations
Independent (1994)
Spouse(s)
Eunice Montgomery
(m. 1958;div. 1978)
Children3
Education Virginia Union University (BSc)
Howard University (JD)
Signature Doug Wilder signature.png
Military service
AllegianceFlag of the United States (1912-1959).svg  United States
Branch/service Seal of the United States Department of War.png United States Army
Years of service1951–1953
Rank Sergeant
Battles/wars Korean War
Awards Bronze 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 the Reconstruction era, and the first elected African-American governor. [lower-alpha 1]

Contents

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. [1] He is the son of Beulah Olive (Richards) and Robert Judson Wilder. [2] He is the grandson of slaves, his paternal grandparents having been enslaved in Goochland County. [3] The seventh of eight brothers and sisters, Wilder was named for the African-American writers Paul Laurence Dunbar and Frederick Douglass. [4]

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." [5]

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. [6]

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. [7]

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. [8]

Wilder married Eunice Montgomery in 1958. The couple had three children before divorcing in 1978: Lynn Diana; Lawrence Douglas Jr.; and Loren Deane. [9]

Political career

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. He was the first African-American elected to the Virginia Senate since Reconstruction. A 1970 redistricting gave Wilder a predominantly African-American district, and he became a liberal in a predominantly conservative, white-majority legislature.

Wilder briefly flirted with an independent bid for the United States Senate in 1982. He 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. Angered that Pickett would praise a political machine who obstinately resisted racial integration, Wilder threatened to make an independent bid for the seat if Pickett won the nomination. [10] Pickett not only realized that 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 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. Wilder was the first African-American to win a statewide election in Virginia. Aware that he needed to reach the swath of the state's majority-white electorate, 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.

Governor of Virginia

Wilder was elected governor on November 8, 1989, defeating Republican Marshall Coleman by a spread of less than half a percent. The narrow victory margin prompted a recount, which reaffirmed Wilder's election. He was sworn in on January 13, 1990 by former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr.. In recognition of his landmark achievement as the first elected African-American governor, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People awarded Wilder the Spingarn Medal for 1990.

Wilder had a comfortable lead in the last polls before the election. The unexpected closeness of the election may have been due to the Republicans' strong get out the vote efforts. Wilder had been candid about his pro-choice position in relation to abortion. Some observers believed the close election was caused by the Bradley effect, and suggested that white voters were reluctant to tell pollsters that they did not intend to vote for Wilder.

During his tenure as governor, Wilder worked on crime and gun control initiatives. He also worked to fund Virginia's transportation initiatives, effectively lobbying Congress to reallocate highway money to the states with the greatest needs. [11] Much residential and office development had taken place in Northern Virginia without its receiving sufficient federal money for infrastructure improvements to keep up. He also succeeded in passing state bond issues to support improving transportation. In May 1990 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.

During his term, Wilder carried out Virginia's law on capital punishment, although he had stated his personal opposition to the death penalty. There were 14 executions by the electric chair, including the controversial case of Roger Keith Coleman. In January 1994 Wilder commuted the sentence of Earl Washington Jr., an intellectually disabled man, to life in prison based on testing of DNA evidence that raised questions about his guilt. Virginia law has strict time limits on when such new evidence can be introduced post-conviction. But in 2000, under a new governor, an STR-based DNA test led to the exclusion of Washington as the perpetrator of the murder for which he had been sentenced. He was fully exonerated by Governor Jim Gilmore for the capital murder and he was released from prison.

As Virginia limits consecutive gubernatorial terms, he was succeeded in 1994 by George Allen.

Policies

Poster of Wilder campaigning for the State Senate in 1969 D.Wilder S.Senate poster.jpg
Poster of Wilder campaigning for the State Senate in 1969

Since the 1970s Wilder has supported the death penalty. He generally ran on "anti-crime" platforms. In response to a waning budget balance due to state economic problems, Wilder supported some of the most dramatic cuts in the United States in allocations for higher education.

In the mid-1990s Wilder was scrutinized for his attacks on fellow Democrat Chuck Robb and support of Republican Mark Earley. Wilder declared himself a candidate for President in 1992, but withdrew before primary season had ended. He briefly ran for the U.S. Senate as an independent in 1994.

Mayor of Richmond

On May 30, 2004, Wilder announced his intention to run for Mayor of Richmond. Until recently, the Richmond City Council chose the mayor from among its 9 members. The move to change this policy succeeded in November 2003 when voters approved a mayor-at-large referendum, with roughly 80 percent voting in favor of the measure. Wilder was a leading proponent of the mayor-at-large proposal.

On November 2, 2004, Wilder received 79% of the vote (55,319 votes) to become the first directly elected Mayor of Richmond in sixty years. Upon winning the election, Wilder communicated his intentions to take on corruption in the city government. He issued several ultimatums to the sitting City Council before he took office. He was sworn in on January 2, 2005.

He was a member of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition, [12] a bi-partisan group with a stated goal of "making the public safer by getting illegal guns off the streets." The Coalition was co-chaired by former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

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

Post-political career

Wilder has continued as an adjunct professor in public policy at Virginia Commonwealth University within the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs. [13] He writes occasional editorials for Virginia newspapers.

Douglas Wilder is the founder of the United States National Slavery Museum, a non-profit organization based in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The museum has been fundraising and campaigning since 2001 to establish a national museum on slavery in America. In June 2008 Wilder requested that the museum be granted tax exempt status, which was denied. [14] From that time, taxes on the land had not been paid and the property was at risk of being sold at auction by the city of Fredericksburg. [15]

Beset by financial problems the museum has been assessed delinquent property taxes for the years 2009, 2010, and 2011 amounting to just over $215,000. [16] The organization filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection on September 22, 2011. Early in 2011 Douglas Wilder was refusing to respond to or answer any questions from either news reporters or patrons who had donated artifacts. [17]

Wilder made news in 2012 when he refused to support Barack Obama, the nation's first black president, for another term. [18] He noted that he supported Obama in 2008, but said the president's tenure in the Oval Office thus far had been a disappointment. 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. [18]

In 2015, Wilder published an autobiography, Son of Virginia: A Life in America's Political Arena. [19]

In March 2018, Wilder filed suit against John Accordino, who was serving as the Dean of his namesake college, for harassing Wilder's assistant. [20] This led to Accordino stepping down from his position and Susan Gooden being named as the interim dean of the college and then Wilder dropping the suit 4 months after filing. [21]

In March 2019, Sydney Black filed a complaint under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 against Wilder for sexual harassment after she claims he made sexual advances to her, which she rebuffed, and then told her later that there was no funding for her position at the Virginia Commonwealth University. [22] In July 2019, the university's independent investigator concluded that Wilder did kiss the student without her consent. [23] In response, Wilder provided a detailed rebuttal, in which he denied "non-consensual sexual contact” between Black and him. [23] In addition, he denied retaliating against her by saying her position had been eliminated. [23] Wilder also 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. [23] The university planned to consider the investigator's findings and Wilder's rebuttal before deciding what action to take, if any. [23] On October 24, 2019, Wilder announced that the university's internal review panel had cleared him of wrongdoing. [24]

In 2020 Wilder raised concerns that the state archives at the Library of Virginia had failed to provide access to the records of his gubernatorial administration. [25]

Honors and awards

Personal papers

The L. Douglas Wilder Collection resides at the L. Douglas Wilder Library and Learning Resource Center at Wilder's alma mater, Virginia Union University. [27] The collection contains press office photographs from Wilder's time as Governor, over 600 audio cassette tapes of Wilder's WRVA radio talk show as well as other speeches, and over 350 video cassettes of political events, campaign materials, and news appearances. A gallery located in the library also displays many of Wilder's political recognitions and awards.

Notes

  1. The first African-American governor of a U.S. state was P. B. S. Pinchback, who was not elected to the office of governor. Pinchback became Governor of Louisiana upon the removal of his predecessor from office, and served as governor from December 1872 to January 1873.

Related Research Articles

Governor of Virginia

The governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia serves as the chief executive of the Commonwealth of Virginia for a four-year term. The incumbent Ralph Northam was sworn in January 13, 2018.

Bobby Scott (politician)

Robert Cortez Scott is an American politician serving as the U.S. Representative for Virginia's 3rd congressional district since 1993. A member of the Democratic Party, he is the dean of Virginia's congressional delegation. The district serves most of the majority-black precincts of Hampton Roads, including all of the independent cities of Franklin, Newport News and Portsmouth, parts of the independent cities of Chesapeake, Hampton, Norfolk and Suffolk and all of Isle of Wight County.

Gerald Baliles American politician

Gerald Lee Baliles was a Virginia lawyer and Democratic politician whose career spanned great social and technological changes in his native state. The 65th Governor of Virginia, the native of Patrick County previously served as the Commonwealth's attorney general (1982–85), and represented Richmond and Henrico County in the Virginia House of Delegates (1972-1982). After another stint in private legal practice, with Hunton & Williams (1991-2005), Baliles directed the nonpartisan Miller Center of Public Affairs associated with his alma mater, the University of Virginia (2006-2014).

Tim Kaine United States Senator from Virginia

Timothy Michael Kaine is an American lawyer and politician serving as the junior United States senator from Virginia since 2013. A member of the Democratic Party, he previously served as the 38th lieutenant governor of Virginia from 2002 to 2006 and 70th governor of Virginia from 2006 to 2010. Kaine was the Democratic nominee for Vice President of the United States in the 2016 election as the running mate of Hillary Clinton.

J. Sargeant Reynolds

Julian Sargeant "Sarge" Reynolds of Richmond, Virginia was an American teacher, businessman, and Democratic politician. He served in both the House and Senate of the Virginia General Assembly and served as 30th Lieutenant Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia under Governor Linwood Holton. He died of an inoperable brain tumor at age 34, while in office as Virginia's Lieutenant Governor.

James L. Kemper

James Lawson Kemper was a lawyer, a Confederate general in the American Civil War, and the 37th Governor of Virginia. He was the youngest brigade commander and only non-professional military officer in the division that led Pickett's Charge, during which he was severely wounded.

Marshall Coleman American politician

John Marshall Coleman is an American lawyer and Republican politician who served in both houses of the Virginia General Assembly during the 1970s. He was the first Republican elected as Attorney General of Virginia since Congressional Reconstruction and served 1978-1982, although his later campaigns for Governor of Virginia and U.S. Senate proved unsuccessful.

Henry Howell

Henry Evans Howell, Jr., nicknamed "Howlin' Henry" Howell, was an American politician from the Commonwealth of Virginia. A progressive populist and a member of the Democratic Party, he served in both houses of the Virginia General Assembly, was elected the 31st Lieutenant Governor of Virginia as an Independent Democrat, and made several runs for governor.

The United States National Slavery Museum was an unfunded proposal for a museum to commemorate American slavery.

Virginia in the American Civil War Overview of Virginias role during the American Civil War

Virginia became a prominent part of the Confederacy when it joined during the American Civil War. As a Southern slave-holding state, Virginia held the state convention to deal with the secession crisis, and voted against secession on April 4, 1861. Opinion shifted after April 15, when U.S. President Abraham Lincoln called for troops from all states still in the Union to put down the rebellion, following the capture of Fort Sumter. The Virginia convention voted to declare secession from the Union on April 17. A Unionist government was established in Wheeling and the new state of West Virginia was created by an act of Congress from 50 counties of western Virginia, making it the only state to lose territory as a consequence of the war.

Owen B. Pickett

Owen Bradford Pickett was a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives from Virginia.

The Democratic Party of Virginia is the Virginia affiliate of the Democratic Party based in Richmond, Virginia. The organization is governed by a State Party Plan, which guarantees an open and fair candidate selection process. Although the party has members and elected officials throughout the state, it draws its highest number of votes from the Tidewater area, Metropolitan Richmond, and suburban Washington, D.C.

Rudolph Clyde McCollum Jr. is an American lawyer who served as the mayor of Richmond, Virginia from 2001 to 2005.

James Taylor Ellyson

James Taylor Ellyson was a former Confederate soldier, as well as Virginia lawyer and Democratic politician, who served in several positions in his native Richmond, Virginia and statewide.

Joe Morrissey American lawyer and politician

Joseph Dee Morrissey is an American Democratic politician, businessman, and former lawyer who won election to both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly from districts including Richmond or surrounding Henrico County, Virginia. He currently represents Virginia's 16th Senate district, having been elected during the 2019 Virginia elections. He represents much of southern Richmond, as well as all of the cities of Petersburg and Hopewell and portions of Chesterfield, Dinwiddie and Prince George counties.

Jennifer McClellan

Jennifer Leigh McClellan is an American politician serving as the Virginia State Senator from the 9th district since 2017. A member of the Democratic Party, her district is located in the Greater Richmond Region. McClellan was previously elected to the Virginia House of Delegates from 2006 to 2017, representing the 71st district. She is also vice-chair of the Democratic Party of Virginia and a member of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). She is a candidate for Governor of Virginia in the 2021 election.

Tom Moss (politician)

Thomas Warren Moss, Jr. was an American politician, most recently serving as the City Treasurer of Norfolk, a post to which he was elected in 2001. Prior to that, he served 36 years as a Democratic member of the Virginia House of Delegates, and was its Speaker 1991–2000.

Elections in Virginia

Elections in Virginia are authorized under Article I Virginia State Constitution, sections 5–6, and Article V which establishes elections for the state level officers, cabinet, and legislature. Article VII section 4 establishes the election of county-level officers.

Justin Fairfax 41st Lieutenant Governor of Virginia

Justin Edward Fairfax is an American politician and lawyer who has been serving since 2018 as the 41st Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. A member of the Democratic Party, he is the second African American elected statewide in Virginia, following Douglas Wilder. In 2019 he was accused of sexual assault.

References

  1. Jessie Carney Smith, Notable Black American Men, Book 1, 1998, page 1218
  2. Untold Glory: African Americans in Pursuit of Freedom, Opportunity, and Achievement, Harlem Moon/Broadway Books. 2007. p. 372.
  3. Donald P. Baker, Wilder: Hold Fast to Dreams; A Biography of L. Douglas Wilder, 1989, page 3
  4. Associated Press, Spokane Spokesman-Review, "Virginia Gov. Wilder Running for President", September 14, 1991.
  5. Joe Taylor, Associated Press, "Wilder’s Roots in ‘Gentle Poverty’", Ocala Star-Banner , November 9, 1989.
  6. Virginia Union University, The Wilder Collection: Biographical Information, Retrieved October 5, 2013.
  7. Associated Press, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, Wilder: Former Governor Now a Candidate for Richmond Mayor, September 26, 2004.
  8. CNN.com, "Then & Now: Douglas Wilder", June 19, 2005.
  9. B. Drummond Ayres, Jr., New York Times, "The 1989 Elections: The Virginia Contest; Man in the News; Lawrence Douglas Wilder; From Confrontation to Conciliation", The New York Times November 8, 1989.
  10. Barone, Michael; Ujifusa, Grant (1987). The Almanac of American Politics 1988 . National Journal . p. 1227.
  11. "Then & Now: Douglas Wilder", CNN, June 19, 2005. Retrieved March 4, 2009.
  12. "Mayors Against Illegal Guns: Coalition Members". Archived from the original on March 6, 2007.
  13. "People — L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs". wilder.vcu.edu. Retrieved October 9, 2018.
  14. Gould, Pamela (February 21, 2009). "Slavery museum's future in doubt". The Free Lance-Star . Fredericksburg, VA. Archived from the original on February 24, 2009. Retrieved December 29, 2010.
  15. Hannon, Kelly (December 29, 2010). "Land Sale Looms for Museum Site". The Free Lance-Star. Fredericksburg, VA. Archived from the original on April 7, 2011. Retrieved December 29, 2010.
  16. "Slavery Museum Misses Tax Deadline". Richmond Times-Dispatch . August 14, 2011.
  17. Hannon, Kelly (February 13, 2011). "Slavery Museum Donors Ignored". The Free Lance-Star. Fredericksburg, VA. Archived from the original on February 15, 2011. Retrieved August 14, 2011.
  18. 1 2 "Nation's first African American Governor decides not to endorse President Obama for President – But He is Voting for Pres Obama". Gretawire . November 5, 2012. Archived from the original on November 9, 2012. Retrieved November 6, 2012.
  19. Laura Vozella (November 28, 2015). "At 84, the Virginia maverick is still bucking". The Washington Post . Retrieved December 3, 2015.
  20. Mattingly, Justin; Oliver, Ned. "Former Gov. Douglas Wilder sues dean of school bearing his name claiming assistant was harassed". Roanoke Times. Retrieved October 9, 2018.
  21. Mattingly, Justin. "Wilder drops lawsuit against VCU, ousted dean of school bearing his name". Richmond Times-Dispatch. Retrieved October 9, 2018.
  22. Washington Post, Jenna Portnoy Washington DC. "College student accuses former Virginia governor Douglas Wilder of Sexual Harassment". Washington Post. Retrieved March 28, 2019.
  23. 1 2 3 4 5 Suderman, Alan (July 23, 2019). "Ex-Virginia governor says harassment probe was unfair". Associated Press . New York, NY.
  24. "Ex-Gov. Wilder says panel clears him of kissing allegation". AP News.com. New York, NY: Associated Press. October 24, 2019.
  25. Library of Virginia apologizes for delay with Wilder papers, promises fix as 'highest priority' (Juy 9, 2020)
  26. Division of University Relations, University Public Affairs (May 21, 2004). "VCU board approves naming of the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs". Virginia Commonwealth University News. Virginia Commonwealth University.
  27. The L. Douglas Wilder Collection

Further reading

Senate of Virginia
Preceded by
J. Sargeant Reynolds
Member of the Virginia Senate
from the 30th district

1970–1972
Succeeded by
Leroy S. Bendheim
Preceded by
M. Patton Echols
Member of the Virginia Senate
from the 9th district

1972–1986
Succeeded by
Benjamin Lambert
Political offices
Preceded by
Richard Davis
Lieutenant Governor of Virginia
1986–1990
Succeeded by
Don Beyer
Preceded by
Gerald Baliles
Governor of Virginia
1990–1994
Succeeded by
George Allen
Preceded by
Rudy McCollum
Mayor of Richmond
2005–2009
Succeeded by
Dwight Jones
Party political offices
Preceded by
Gerald Baliles
Democratic nominee for Governor of Virginia
1989
Succeeded by
Mary Sue Terry