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Press Releases

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Wilder Keynotes Black History Month Activities at SU

SALISBURY, MD---Salisbury University welcomes an American political pioneer Wednesday, February 4, when former Virginia governor L. Douglas Wilder keynotes SU’s African-American History Month series. Wilder, the first African-American elected governor in the United States in 1989, speaks at 7 p.m. in Holloway Hall Auditorium. The former governor takes pride in the fact that he broke the race barrier among state leaders not in a trendy state like California or a liberal state like Massachusetts, but in Virginia, the heart of the Confederacy during the Civil War and a state where Wilder was once denied admission to the commonwealth’s law schools due to his skin color. With African-Americans comprising less than 20 percent of Virginia’s population, 80 percent of Wilder’s supporters were Caucasian. During Governor Wilder’s first year in office, the shaky national economy and reduced defense spending threw 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. A 20-year veteran of Virginia politics, Wilder was also the first African-American elected to the state senate in modern times. As of his election as lieutenant governor in 1985, he was the country’s highest-ranking African-American state official. He maintained that ranking until his gubernatorial term expired in 1994, but not before becoming a Democratic candidate for the presidential nomination in 1992. During his political career, Wilder advocated fair housing legislation, labor union rights for public employees and increased minority hiring in private business and was regarded as one of the most influential senators in Virginia. A 1951 alumnus of Virginia Union University in Richmond, he earned a Bachelor of Science in chemistry before being drafted into the U.S. Army. Serving in the Korean War, he received the Bronze Star for heroism in ground combat for rescuing wounded GIs and capturing enemy troops. He graduated from Howard University Law School on the GI Bill, afterward returning to his old neighborhood in Richmond to establish a private practice. Wilder has received a number of honorary degrees and accolades including the prestigious NAACP Spingarn Medal, the Anna Eleanor Roosevelt Medallion of Honor and a Citation of Honor for Contributions to American Politics. Since leaving the governor’s mansion, Wilder has remained in the public eye. He most recently helped establish The National Slavery Museum in Fredericksburg, VA. He also writes a column, lectures nationwide and is serves as a distinguished professor at the Center for Public Policy at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Wilder’s appearance at SU is sponsored by the Office of Multiethnic Student Services, Charles R. and Martha N. Fulton School of Liberal Arts, Office of the Provost, Office of Student Affairs, Institute for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement and the Office of Cultural Events and Museum Programs. The event is free and the public is cordially invited. For more information call 410-543-6030 or visit the SU Web site at

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