Lawrence Douglas Wilder (born January 17, 1931) is an American lawyer and politician who served as the 66th Governor of Virginia from 1990 to 1994. He was the first African-American to serve as governor of a U.S. state since the Reconstruction era, and the first elected African-American governor.[a]
Born in Richmond, Virginia, Wilder graduated from Virginia Union University and served in the United States Army during the Korean War. He established a legal practice in Richmond after graduating from the Howard University School of Law. A member of the Democratic Party, Wilder won election to the Virginia Senate in 1969. He remained in that chamber until 1986, when he took office as the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, becoming the first African-American to hold statewide office in Virginia. In the 1989 Virginia gubernatorial election, Wilder narrowly defeated Republican Marshall Coleman.
Wilder left the gubernatorial office in 1994, as the Virginia constitution prohibited governors from seeking re-election. He briefly sought the 1992 Democratic presidential nomination, but withdrew from the race before the first primaries. He also briefly ran as an independent in the 1994 Virginia Senate election before dropping out of the race. Wilder returned to elective office in 2005, when he became the first directly-elected Mayor of Richmond. After leaving office in 2009, he worked as an adjunct professor and founded the United States National Slavery Museum.
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