The Richmond History Podcast

Friday, January 13, 2012

Douglas Wilder

from the Virginia Historical Society

Jan 13, 1990, Douglas Wilder was sworn in as Governor of Virginia making him the first African American elected Governor in the United States and still the only black governor VA has ever had.

The grandson of former slaves, Wilder had become a lawyer after receiving degrees from Howard University and Virginia Union University.   In 1969, he was elected to the Virginia State Senate in a special secession.  His election made him the first black state senator in VA since reconstruction.  In 1985, during the Election Day Flood, was also elected Lieutenant Governor.

According to the Virginia Historical Society web site, as governor, “Wilder was praised for his sound fiscal management and his ability to balance the state budget during difficult economic times. He sponsored new construction projects at many of Virginia's colleges and universities, mental health facilities, and state parks.”1


Starting in 1948, Richmond’s mayor was elected by city council.  Wilder was a strong proponent for the change to a popularly elected mayor.  After the change, he was overwhelmingly elected to the office in 2004 as the first popularly elected mayor since 1948.  As mayor his record was tarnished in the minds of many Richmonders with some very public & odd stunts like unsuccessfully evicting the school board from city hall on Sept 21, 2007 at a cost (according to a council investigation) of $1 million.  2
But as he left office, crime was down, and he had set a lot of precedence for the new mayoral position. 

Comment below with any remembrances of Wilder's terms in office.

*revised 2/6/13 some sources were confused & lost in the process.



1. http://www.vahistorical.org/sva2003/wilder.htm
2. http://www2.timesdispatch.com/news/2008/dec/28/wild28_20081227-211507-ar-88901/


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