Lawrence Douglas Wilder at his Inauguration as Governor of Virginia in 1990.
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 long 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, DC 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 elected African American Governor in U.S. History. Governor Wilder served as Mayor of the city of Richmond, Virginia from 2005 to 2009, in addition to lecturing on the national circuit and serving as a Distinguished Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Center for Public Policy and the Department of Political Science.
The L. Douglas Wilder Collection memorializes the life and career of Virginia's 66th Governor (1990-1994), the first elected African American Governor in U.S. history, and Virginia Union's most celebrated alumnus. Wilder graduated from Virginia Union in 1951 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in chemistry. He was the first Black legislator to serve in the Virginia State Senate since Reconstruction (1969-1986) and the first Black lieutenant governor of Virginia (1986-1990).
The Collection currently houses his awards and memorabilia in a spectacular showcase setting and will be an invaluable resource to researchers when his personal papers are made available.
The Press Office Photo Collection of the L. Douglas Wilder collection is now available to students and other researchers in the form of a user-friendly spreadsheet. These negatives and photos span the years Gov. Wilder was in office 1989-1994. They are the photo record of his activities as Governor, including special occasions like his inauguration, visits from foreign dignitaries and even the Arthur Ashe funeral and his lying in state at the Executive Mansion.
The collection contains over 1,500 rolls of film and can be searched using keywords or dates, or simply scrolled through using the up and down arrows. To view photos from this collection, please refer to the negative number and contact the Archivist between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. weekdays at (804) 278-4117 or (804) 278-4112. The photos must be viewed in the archives; reproduction of any image is subject to a fee.
The audio cassette tapes of the L. Douglas Wilder collection are now available to students and other researchers in the form of a user-friendly database. These tapes primarily span the years 1995-2001 and for the most part are recordings of Wilder's popular WRVA radio talk show. Other tapes include public service announcements, campaign ads, press conferences and national news interviews Wilder had with such news organizations as CNN, BBC and CBS.
The database can be searched on key words or dates, or simply scrolled through. There are over 600 entries. To listen to a tape from this collection, please refer to the tape number and contact the Archivist between 9:00 am- 5:00 pm weekdays at (804) 278-4117 or (804) 278-4112. The tapes do not circulate, but can be used in the library between these hours.
The video tapes of the L. Douglas Wilder collection are now available to students and other researchers in the form of a user-friendly spreadsheet. These tapes primarily span the years 1983-2001. They include the gubernatorial debates between Wilder and Marshall Coleman, political advertisements, public service announcements, Wilder’s inauguration ceremony, the State of the Commonwealth addresses, and Wilder interviews on national news shows such as World News Tonight, Nightline, C Span, Sunday Morning and the Today Show.
The collection includes over 350 videotapes and can be searched using keywords or dates, or simply scrolled through using the up and down arrows. To view a tape from this collection, please refer to the tape number and contact the Archivist between the hours of 9:00 am – 5:00 pm weekdays at (804) 278-4117 or (804) 278-4112. The tapes do not circulate, but can be used in the library between these hours.