BY WALTER OPINDE
Born in Richmond, Virginia on 17th January, 1931, Lawrence Douglas Wilder, on 13th January, 1990, became the first African-American to be elected governor in the United States of America. He was the 66th Governor of Virginia. For four years Wilder served as the governor of Virginia, from 1990 to 1994. Currently, Douglas Wilder is serving as the mayor of Richmond, Virginia.
Wilder began his education in a racially segregated elementary school, George Mason Elementary, and attended all-black Armstrong High School in Richmond. In 1951 he received a degree in chemistry from Virginia Union University in his hometown. Upon the successful completion of his college studies, Wilder joined the U.S. Army and also serviced in the army during the Korean War, where he earned a Bronze Star for heroism. After the war, Douglas Wilder worked in the Virginia state medical examiner’s office as a chemist. Using the G.I. Bill, Douglas graduated from Howard University Law School in 1959, and soon afterwards, he established Wilder, Gregory, and Associates.
In 1969 Douglas Wilder entered politics, winning a seat in the Virginia State Senate during a special election. Wilder became the first African-American state senator in Virginia since Reconstruction. He spent the next one and a half decades in the Virginia Senate before being elected Lieutenant Governor in 1985. Four years later, Douglas Wilder won the Virginia Governorship and was inaugurated on 13th January, four days before his 58th birthday. During his tenure as the Governor, Wilder granted a controversial pardon to basketball star Allen Iverson, a popular high school basketball player who was accused of assaulting a woman. Although Wilder was not convinced by the evidence presented in the case, many people in Virginia felt his decision was racially motivated. However, Lawrence Douglas also presided over fourteen executions in the state.
Barred from running for the second term, Douglas left the governor’s office in January 1994. Although a Democrat for most of his career, Wilder Lawrence Douglas developed a reputation as a law and order fiscal conservative, a position that appealed to many conservative voters in Virginia. He also publicly sparred with fellow Democrat Senator Chuck Robb, and supported Republican Mark Early for the U.S. Senate. When he left office in 1994, Wilder declared himself an independent. In 2004, he returned to politics and was elected Mayor of Richmond with 79% of the vote. He thereby became the first directly elected mayor of Richmond in sixty years.
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