L. Douglas Wilder Biographical Information

Lawrence Douglas Wilder was born to Robert and Beulah Wilder on January 17, 1931 in Richmond, Virginia.  The grandson of slaves, he was named after abolitionist-orator Frederick Douglass and the poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar.  He grew up in the Church Hill district of Richmond along with six sisters and a brother.

  • In 1951 Lawrence Douglas Wilder graduated from Virginia Union University with a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry.  He then entered the Army, earning a bronze star in Korea for demonstrating heroism in ground combat.  Upon returning to Virginia, he decided to study law after working as a chemist for the state medical examiner's office for a while.  In order to study law, he had to leave the state of Virginia  because Virginia law schools did not admit blacks. 
  • In 1959, he graduated from Howard University School of Law in Washington D.C. with a Juris Doctor degree.  After passing the bar exam, he established the law firm, Wilder, Gregory and Associates-one of the few minority owned businesses at the time.
  • In 1969, Wilder entered politics running for a vacated state Senate seat in Richmond.  He won the seat becoming the first African American state senator in Virginia since Reconstruction.
  • In 1985, Wilder made history again by being elected Virginia's first African American Lieutenant Governor.
  • In 1990 he was sworn in as the first African American Governor in U.S. history.

Recently, Governor Wilder served as Mayor of the city of Richmond, Virginia. He continues to lecture on the national circuit and serve as a Distinguished Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University's Center for Public Policy and the Department of Political Science.

Bibliography (Selected resources available in Wilder Library regarding L. Douglas Wilder)

  • Baker, Donald. Hold Fast to Dreams.  F231.3 W55 B35 1989.Edds, Margaret. Claiming the Dream.  F231.3 W55 E33.
  • Foster, Dr. Vonita. The Great Little Boy Who Grew Up to be a Great Man.  F231.3 W55 F818 1999. 
  • Jeffries, Dr. J.L. Virginia’s Native Son.  F231.3 W55 J44 2000.
  • Yancey, Dwayne. When Hell Froze Over.  F231 W55 Y36 1988. 

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