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The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder

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Information about The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder

Profile image of The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder

Profession

Category:
PoliticalMakers
Occupation(s):
Governor

Favorites

Favorite Color:
None
Favorite Food:
None
Favorite Time of Year:
All Seasons
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
I Never Succumb To Flattery Because Then Criticism Would Crush Me.

Birthplace

Born:
1/17/1931
Birth Location:
Richmond, Virginia

Profession

Category:
PoliticalMakers
Occupation(s):
Governor

Favorites

Favorite Color:
None
Favorite Food:
None
Favorite Time of Year:
All Seasons
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
I Never Succumb To Flattery Because Then Criticism Would Crush Me.

Birthplace

Born:
1/17/1931
Birth Location:
Richmond
See how The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Former governor of Virginia L. Douglas Wilder was born in Richmond, Virginia, on January 17, 1931. The second youngest of eight children, Wilder often spent time as a child at the local barbershop listening to political debates. After graduating from Armstrong High School at the age of sixteen, Wilder attended Virginia Union University, while he worked as a waiter to pay his way through college. Wilder earned his B.A. degree in chemistry from Virginia Union in 1951; the following year he was drafted into the army and sent to Korea. In Korea Wilder would lead a group of POW’s under his watch through artillery fire to rescue a group of wounded American soldiers, which earned him the Bronze Star.

Following his time in the Army, Wilder decided to become a lawyer, and in 1956, he entered Howard University. While at Howard University, Wilder met Henry Marsh, the future mayor of Richmond, and had the opportunity to watch Thurgood Marshall and a number of other notables hone their skills in moot court. Wilder also met Eunice Montgomery during his days as a student, and the two married on October 11, 1958. Wilder opened his law firm, which would become Wilder, Gregory & Associates, in 1961, and was soon asked by Spottswood Robinson, who had worked on the Brown v. Board of Education case, to take on some of his excess workload. While Wilder's legal career got off to a successful start, he refused to sit on the segregated side of courtrooms, and often argued with judges about the treatment of his clients. Over the next decade and a half, Wilder argued several famous cases, including his defense of William Penn, an infamous serial killer, which resulted in a hung jury. In 1969, Wilder successfully ran for the Virginia State Senate, becoming the first African American to hold a position there in almost one hundred years. In his first speech in the Senate, Wilder blasted the use of the racially offensive song, Carry Me Back to Old Virginny, and though his bill to repeal the anthem fell short, his reputation as an orator was secured.

During his time in the Senate, Wilder supported a number of bills that were beneficial to low-income residents, and was also a major proponent of anti-discrimination bills. Wilder was most active, however, in reforming legislation relating to juvenile criminal offenders. Beginning in the mid-1970s, Wilder also fought to secure a state holiday for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, birthday, which finally succeeded in 1984. The following year, Wilder won an election to become the first black lieutenant governor in the United States in a landslide victory. After five years as lieutenant governor, Wilder was elected governor of Virginia, the first African American to become governor of a state in United States history. Coming into office in a budget crisis, Wilder was forced to make job and pay cuts, but in the end, Financial Magazine named Virginia the best-managed state in the country. Throughout his term in office, Wilder worked hard to support his low-income constituents and to promote equal opportunities for women and minorities.

See how The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of L. Douglas Wilder's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder describes his father's childhood and paternal family ancestry
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder describes his mother's childhood in Charles City, Virginia, in New Jersey, and Richmond, Virginia
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder lists his siblings and their birth order
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder recalls his earliest childhood memory
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder remembers experiencing segregation and receiving his first lesson in racial pride
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder describes his childhood community in the Church Hill neighborhood of Richmond, Virginia
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder remembers developing his skills as an orator in the local barbershop
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder remembers seeing the Brooklyn Dodgers play against the St. Louis Cardinals in 1947
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder remembers playing semi-professional football and boxing with his brother
  • Tape: 1 Story: 12 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder talks about his relationship with his older sisters
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder remembers the community discussions his father hosted on the porch of their home
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder describes his father's personality and influence, pt. 1
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder describes how he financed his undergraduate education
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder describes his father's personality and influence, pt. 2
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder talks about his mother's aspirations for him
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder describes the sights, sounds, and smells of Richmond, Virginia
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder describes his experience at George Mason Elementary School in Richmond, Virginia
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder talks about graduation from Armstrong High School in Richmond, Virginia at sixteen years old
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder remembers when HistoryMaker Oliver W. Hill became the first black city councilman in 1948
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder talks about majoring in chemistry and the scarce job market in the 1950s
  • Tape: 2 Story: 11 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder remembers his professors, mentors and speakers at Virginia Union University including Dr. Benjamin Mays and Belford Lawson, Jr.
  • Tape: 2 Story: 12 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder talks about pledging Omega Psi Phi Fraternity
  • Tape: 2 Story: 13 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder talks about being drafted into the Korean War in 1952
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder talks about his interest in African politics while serving in the U.S. Military
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder talks about U.S. political activity in Asia and Africa in the 1950s
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder describes his experience in the military, pt. 1
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder describes his experience in the military, pt. 2
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder talks about the consequences of warfare
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder describes earning a Bronze Star in the Battle of Pork Chop Hill
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder describes working in the chief medical examiner's office and abandoning chemistry for law school
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder describes his experience at Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C., pt. 1
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder remembers an interaction with civil rights attorney and Federal District Court Judge Spottswood W. Robinson, III
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder remembers Thurgood Marshall and Charles Hamilton Houston
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder remembers meeting HistoryMaker Henry L. Marsh III at Howard Law School
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder talks about preparing for the bar exam
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder describes his experience at Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C., pt. 2
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder talks about the shortage of black lawyers in Virginia in 1960
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder describes entering the Virginia bar in 1960, managing discrimination within the bar, and helping to organize the black bar
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder talks about the influence of HistoryMaker Oliver W. Hill, Thurgood Marshall, Spottswood W. Robinson III and others
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder talks about integrating courtrooms, law offices and the circuit bench
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder describes his litigating style
  • Tape: 4 Story: 10 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder talks about representing Curtis Poindexter for the murder of Judge S. A. Cunningham
  • Tape: 4 Story: 11 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder talks about the Bruce Tucker heart transplant investigation, pt. 1
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder talks about the Bruce Tucker heart transplant investigation. pt. 2
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder talks briefly about his relationship with his father and challenging his parents
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder talks about Virginia's opposition to the Brown v. Board decision and the closing of Virginia schools in Prince Edward County
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder explains why he decided to run for the Senate of Virginia
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder explains how the annexation of Chesterfield County in 1960 affected the voter demographic in Richmond, Virginia
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder talks about winning a seat in the Virginia General Assembly
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder talks about introducing the bill to repeal the old Virginia state song, 'Carry Me Back to Old Virginny,' pt. 1
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder talks about introducing the bill to repeal the old Virginia state song, 'Carry Me Back to Old Virginny,' pt. 2
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder describes his campaign strategy
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder talks about his relationship with Senator William Vincent "Bill" Rawlings and joining the Committee on Privileges and Elections
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder talks about being elected lieutenant governor and working to balance duties of this position with that of his law practice
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder talks about his relationship with Dr. William P. Robinson
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder describes Virginia's black legislators in the 1970s
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder talks about his participation in the formation of the Democratic Black Caucus of Virginia
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder talks about voting in opposition of capital punishment
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder talks about passing the bill to observe Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday as a holiday
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder talks about his relationship with Charles Spittal "Chuck" Robb and being elected lieutenant governor of Virginia in 1985
  • Tape: 6 Story: 9 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder describes how he made use of his political clout as lieutenant governor
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder talks about regulating gun control as lieutenant governor
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder explains why he decided to run for Governor of Virginia
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder describes his campaign strategy for lieutenant governor
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder talks about winning the lieutenant gubernatorial election
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder talks about his endorsement from Virginia Attorney General Gerald L. Baliles and Charles Spittal "Chuck" Robb in the 1985 lieutenant gubernatorial election
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder talks about campaign fundraising and shooting a low-cost, improvised commercial in Lunenburg County, Virginia
  • Tape: 7 Story: 7 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder remembers being asked by a Virginia resident his stance on abortion during his gubernatorial campaign
  • Tape: 7 Story: 8 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder describes how he felt the night he was elected governor in 1989
  • Tape: 7 Story: 9 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder talks about Virginia's budget deficit in 1990 and establishing a
  • 200 million dollar rainy day fund
  • Tape: 8 Story: 1 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder talks about having developed a reputation for fiscal conservatism
  • Tape: 8 Story: 2 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder addresses criticism of his governorship
  • Tape: 8 Story: 3 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder talks about his contribution to Virginia handgun regulation
  • Tape: 8 Story: 4 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder considers the importance of his election as governor
  • Tape: 8 Story: 5 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder talks about the risks of succumbing to flattery
  • Tape: 8 Story: 6 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder talks about his post-gubernatorial activity
  • Tape: 8 Story: 7 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder describes his role in helping to reform Richmond, Virginia's mayoral election process
  • Tape: 8 Story: 8 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder talks about his 2004 mayoral campaign
  • Tape: 8 Story: 9 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder addresses criticism of his mayoral campaign
  • Tape: 8 Story: 10 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder talks about fostering African American participation in politics
  • Tape: 8 Story: 11 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder explains his definition of a public servant
  • Tape: 8 Story: 12 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder describes his concerns for the African American community
  • Tape: 8 Story: 13 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder reflects upon his legacy
  • Tape: 8 Story: 14 - The Honorable L. Douglas Wilder explains the origin of his name