The Wilder Collection

Lawrence Douglas Wilder at his Inauguration as Governor of Virginia in 1990.

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, 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 L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs.


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 covers Governor Wilder’s civic, military and political career from the late 1950’s through 2009 and contains papers, photographs and negatives, audio cassette and video tapes, in addition to awards, and memorabilia. For more information on the L. Douglas Wilder Collection visit https://vuu.libguides.com/wildercollection or contact the Archivist between 9:00 am - 5:00 pm weekdays at (804) 278-4117 or archives@vuu.edu.