by News Bureau on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012
L. Douglas Wilder, the nation’s first elected African-American governor, will take questions from the media prior to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Dinner. Wilder will present the keynote address at the dinner.
4:30-5 p.m. Jan. 18.
Show Me Center north meeting room
A racial milestone was achieved in the United States when Wilder became the first elected African-American governor on Jan. 13, 1990. Wilder was elected in Virginia, the centerpiece of the Confederacy during the Civil War, where African-Americans constitute less than 20 percent of the population. Remarkably four out of five of his supporters were white in a state that once denied him admission to its law schools. During Gov. Wilder’s inaugural year, the shaky national economy and reduced defense spending hurled Virginia into its worst budget crisis since World War II. Faced with a projected tax shortfall of $1.4 billion, the governor implemented a successful program for reduced spending.
Since leaving the governor’s mansion in 1994, Wilder remains devoted to social and political causes. He played a vital role in developing the National Slavery Museum in Fredericksburg, Va., and heeded the call from the state capitol’s residents to launch a successful bid for mayor, winning with more than 80 percent of the vote.
Prior to his roles as governor and mayor, Wilder served successive terms in the Virginia State Senate. His aggressive style and willingness to challenge the leadership of his own party earned him a place among the five most influential members of the state Senate. Throughout his esteemed public service career, Wilder garnered many honors and awards, including the Bronze Star for his heroism in the Korean War, the NAACP Spingarn Medal, the Anna Eleanor Roosevelt Medallion of Honor and a Citation of Honor for Contributions to American Politics.